Embracing the digital revolution will add $1 trillion to the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (ASEAN) gross domestic product by the end of 2025 and the digital economy alone could be worth $200 billion by then, a Malaysian economist said.
“There is no denial . . . A quarter of the Asean population are already shopping online. No doubt digital innovation will shape the next 50 years of Asean economic development,” said Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid, who is also president of Malaysia’s Asean Business Advisory Council and the Asean Business Club.
Majid spoke during the launch of the Advancing Asean in the Digital Age book during the final day of the Asean Business and Investment Summit.
The book, published by the CIMB ASEAN Research Institute in collaboration with the Asean Business Club, captures the thoughts and ideas of business leaders, thought leaders, as well as policymakers in how the digital age will impact the economic prosperity of the region.
Asean, with an estimated total population 634 million, half of whom are below the age of 30, is said to be one of fastest-growing internet regions in the world.
In a succeeding panel discussion on entrepreneurship in a digital economy, meanwhile, First Pacific Company Ltd. Managing Director Manny Pangilinan acknowledged that there were a lot of challenges that needed to be addressed.
“I think Asean as an internet community will evolve only after certain component members by themselves develop the internet practice and consciousness. How do we do that? The first pre-requisite is the appropriate infrastructure,” he said.
“Internet by itself cannot exist without infra, without the highways, without the delivery assistance. Related to that is the devices. The ability to have the device connected to the internet,” Pangilina added.
In the case of the Philippines, where Pangilinan-led PLDT, Inc. is one of the two dominant telcos, the First Pacific executive said only 40 percent of the people had smartphones that could be connected to the internet.
“I think that is probably true for other Asean countries. So we have to solve that problem and that can be solve partly by the ability of internet companies to open the credit facilities for them to borrow cellphones and even appliances,” he said.
The next thing to address is getting people to adopt digital payments, which would be a crucial step in developing a digital economy.