‘Asean must invest in shared economy’

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) must invest in technology and skills training to take full advantage of the benefits of a shared economy, panelists said during a forum during the final day of the Asean Business & Investment Summit.

Robert Yap Min Choy, chairman of Fullerton Systems and Services and Sunseap Group, said the Asean digital identity would become more pronounced with the emergence of the shared, sharing or collaborative consumption economy.

Robin Kwok, Airbnb country manager for Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said technology was driving the emergence of shared economy businesses represented by Airbnb.

“Whether we are ready or not, it’s coming our way,” she said.

Kwok said trends such as rapid urbanization, larger gaps between urban and rural areas, a growing middle class, burgeoning economies and increased media consumption were opportunities being embraced by shared economy businesses.

“All of that … [is]especially happening here in Asean. So it is not a question if we are ready, it is a statement that ‘we are ready’. There is nothing we can do about that other than embrace [the situation],” she added.

Kwok said a successful shared economy also requires partnerships between businesses and local governments to build smart and fair regulatory frameworks.

Robert Yap, YCH Group executive chairman, said matching excess resources to needs and demands was another component of a successful shared economy.

“Allowing people to grow inclusively will be a win-win for everyone. If we level the playing field, I think more companies will compete and will able to move up the value chain,” he said.

Yap added that it was also was very important for governments to engage educational institutions and businesses.

“So if you know what business is relevant now, you train your people to be relevant for that. Skill based training is one of the key ways to go,” he said.

Mario Pezzini, director of the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) Development Centre, also said that technology was driving the shared economy.

“In order to have a shared economy, you need to have privatization to the use of technology. If you don’t have this condition, you don’t share anything. If you want to guarantee that platform, then you need investment and policies. Obviously investment in education but you also need access to the web, access to Internet,” he said.

To guarantee that these mechanisms are in place, Pezzini said investments in infrastructure by national governments were particularly needed.

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