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The rapid growth of digital adoption in the ASEAN bodes well for the region’s economies, but its growth must be inclusive, with micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) being crucial to a sustainable growth, to fully realize the expanding opportunities presented by digital transformation.
ASEAN-BAC Philippines Chairman Joey Concepcion expressed this opinion during a panel discussion on ASEAN’s Digital Powerhouse at the Nexus of Connectivity and Transformation. The session was held on the first day of the ASEAN Business Investment Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia last September 3, 2023. The session gathered some of the region‘s biggest tech players, as well as key stakeholders from leading multinational companies, global financial institutions, and government organizations. The session delved into the development of strategic policies – including financial technology, e-Trade, and cross-border trade facilitation.
“All of these tools are important to uplift the lives of our people. That’s why we are here: how do we solve big problems especially for those who are at the bottom of the pyramid,” he said, as he pointed out that four of the ten countries in the ASEAN have nearly a fifth of their populations still living in poverty.
“The power of digital has to be used. Crisis pushed people to use these tools and this is one of the reasons we in the ASEAN BAC Philippines proposed to sign an MOU with each ASEAN country to focus on sectors that will bring development, specifically agri
“We are the big brothers … Unless we embrace the MSMEs in our value chain this is going to take a long time … That is our mission as ASEAN BAC heads, to see to it that greater prosperity is achieved,” he said. The ASEAN BAC was organized to provide private sector feedback and guidance to boost ASEAN’s efforts towards economic integration.
“The power of digitalization is there; we just have to use it,” he said. “It’s time that we really focus on the objective of greater prosperity, especially for those at the bottom of the pyramid, using whatever tools we have,” he said.
The ASEAN has emerged as the world’s fastest-growing internet market, with a 40 percent annual growth in the value of e-commerce between 2016 and 2021. Further, it is set to become the world’s fastest growing digital market driven by a growing consumer market and the rapid adoption of social commerce platforms by its population.
This growth must be inclusive in order to unlock the benefits, said Concepcion, and emphasized that it must be used to enable MSMEs. He cited the Philippines case as an example of how digital technology has helped MSMEs compete with big corporations, and gave birth to a thriving digital economy that was further hastened by the pandemic lockdowns.
“We must enable MSMEs to use digitalization to their advantage,” he said. Digital growth is seen to boost cross-border e-commerce by providing MSMEs with access to new markets, and is hoped to promote financial inclusion to underserved populations.
With Concepcion during the sessions were Sam Myers, Deputy Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific (Southeast Asia) at the UK Department for Business and Trade; Haslina Taib, CEO of Dynamic Technologies; Yuem Kua
Bank of Indonesia Governor Dr. Perry Warijjyo, Temasek Holdings CEO Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara