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Experts seek data-driven approach, digitalization for ASEAN connectivity

By Sanjay Kumar

Published : Jan. 9, 2024 - 13:57

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Attendees pose for a group photo at 11th ASEAN Connectivity Forum held at Westin Josun Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul on Tuesday. (ASEAN-Korea Center) Attendees pose for a group photo at 11th ASEAN Connectivity Forum held at Westin Josun Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul on Tuesday. (ASEAN-Korea Center)

Experts advocated adopting a data-driven approach and enhanced digitalization to fortify connectivity for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, at the 11th edition of the ASEAN Connectivity Forum on Tuesday.

Highlighting the theme of digital connectivity, ASEAN - Korea Center Secretary-General Kim Hae-yong reiterated his commitment to enhancing synergies between the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific and the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative within ASEAN and beyond.

The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 was adopted at the 17th ASEAN Summit in 2010 to unify the ASEAN economic community by creating a single market and production base. The plan outlines sustainable infrastructure, digital innovation, seamless logistics, regulatory excellence and people mobility for ASEAN integration.

Former Secretary-General of ASEAN Lim Jock Hoi delivers keynote speech at 11th ASEAN Connectivity Forum held at Westin Josun Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul on Tuesday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Former Secretary-General of ASEAN Lim Jock Hoi delivers keynote speech at 11th ASEAN Connectivity Forum held at Westin Josun Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul on Tuesday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

“ASEAN’s digital economy is projected to triple in size by 2030, increasing from approximately $300 million to $1 trillion,” Kim underlined.

Kim introduced the ASEAN Korea Center's proactive measures before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as webinars, roundtable sessions, the ASEAN Expanded Connectivity Forum in 2022, the ASEAN-Korea Trade and Investment Roundtable and the ASEAN-Korea Trade Facilitation Seminar, to address the three pillars of connectivity — physical, institutional and people-to-people.

“Digital innovation is growing more than ever. I must highlight that the keyword penetrating the various connectivity initiatives is 'digital,'” said Kim.

ASEAN Korea Center Secretary General Kim Hae-yong delivers opening remarks at 11th ASEAN Connectivity Forum held at Westin Josun in Jung-gu, Seoul on Tuesday. (ASEAN-Korea Center) ASEAN Korea Center Secretary General Kim Hae-yong delivers opening remarks at 11th ASEAN Connectivity Forum held at Westin Josun in Jung-gu, Seoul on Tuesday. (ASEAN-Korea Center)

Kim stressed that the digitalization of ASEAN's micro, small and medium-sized enterprises is a key focus, citing the ASEAN-Korea Startup Week, a program dedicated to facilitating digital transformation and encouraging innovative uses of ICT in business.

Meanwhile, former ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi urged a shift from a project-focused approach to a more data-driven strategy.

He pointed to the high costs, time-consuming processes and resource requirements associated with these projects as reasons for the uneven implementation of initiatives outlined in the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025.

Laos Ambassador to Korea Songkane Luangmuninthone interacts with guests and attendees at 11th ASEAN Connectivity Forum held at Westin Josun in Jung-gu, Seoul on Tuesday. (ASEAN-Korea Center) Laos Ambassador to Korea Songkane Luangmuninthone interacts with guests and attendees at 11th ASEAN Connectivity Forum held at Westin Josun in Jung-gu, Seoul on Tuesday. (ASEAN-Korea Center)

“That’s why it’s about time to rethink our approach to regional connectivity to a more data-driven approach,” Jock Hoi said, advocating for a holistic understanding of connectivity issues supported by research and data analysis across economic, environmental, political, security and sociocultural factors.

Jock Hoi stressed the need to examine governance and develop institutional mechanisms for ASEAN connectivity, proposed increased resources for post-2025 connectivity initiatives and recommended diversifying ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Connectivity membership to enhance strategic coordination.

He also called for sustainable infrastructure investment, support for urban areas transitioning to a circular economy and collaborative efforts in sustainable land transport, air connectivity and digital transformation as ASEAN looks beyond 2025.