The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) must rethink strategies to take full advantage of the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, seen to improve regional financial inclusion.
This is what panelists said in a forum themed “Right Money + Open Markets = Prosperity for All,” during the ongoing Asean Business & Investment Summit.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, commonly known as 4IR, can be described as a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, and impacting all disciplines, economies and industries.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. said countries were lucky because the entry of digital technology would enable them to solve many of the old problems in easier ways.
“For example … how do you deliver in a cost-effective manner to a market that is very difficult to serve? How do you bridge geography?,” he said.
“[The] Philippines … is an archipelago with more than 7,100 islands. How do you reach out to people and businesses that spread out over such great geography? How do you overcome infrastructure gaps that are currently existing? And how do you overcome gaps in information?,” he added.
Espenilla said these problems cannot be addressed alone by regulators like the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
“We need to collaborate and nurture partnerships … and at the same time, keep an open mind to innovations especially in digital technology that will enable us to solve problems,” he said.
For CIMB Group’s Nazir Razak, technology has become a great enabler.
“I like to think of it in a bigger context. We are in the fourth industrial revolution and it has huge potential to improve inclusion for SMEs [small and medium enterprises],” he said.
But Razak said the question was whether Asean countries and the wider region would step up and optimize 4IR’s potentials.
“There are many plans in Asean to deal with the fourth industrial revolution. But I think those plans are not enough because the challenges is about cross borders and enabling movement of data,” he said.
“Data is the heart of the fourth industrial revolution but there are so many restrictions in the Asean today about movement of data. How then do we take full advantage of the industrial revolution and technology if we are so restrictive in data?”