The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is leveraging the imperative of digital transformation and seizing the opportunities presented by digital technologies to boost the economy and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Looi Teck Kheong, senior economist and head of Competition, Consumer Protection and IPR Division (CCPID) of the Asean Secretariat, said the accelerating inclusive digital transformation, which includes the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), is an integral part of Asean strategies for future recovery.
He said the use of digital technologies during this pandemic from online shopping to pivot working have enabled countries to unleash improvements of ecommerce and online transactions and reach more markets.
Kheong said governments can support industries to promote digital technology tools, ecommerce, and official websites, create mobile digital payment systems, and develop digital learning and systems to train the employees, among others.
He said governments can support MSMEs as they lack funding to build digital capability.
“MSMEs cannot build digital platforms so therefore the government can help them build it… And MSMEs need the government to facilitate connection as well between website and payment system so integrated ecommerce and payment system will provide convenience to customers, enhancing transactions intended,” he added during the virtual forum on competition in developing countries.
Kheong said speeding up digital transformation is among the five-pronged strategies identified in the Asean Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF) which was developed to help Asean recover.
Under the ACRF, one of the region’s key priorities is providing a digital platform and related policy for promoting MSMEs digital upskilling and providing digital technology and fintech to access markets.
Asean aims to support the integration of MSMEs into global value chains, including establishing mechanisms to help these firms increase exports.
To promote digital upskilling among MSMEs, it provides digital-related content on the Asean SME Academy (https://www.asean-sme-academy.org/) and widens the outreach of the academy.
To recover from the pandemic, Kheong said the region is also maximizing the potential of intra-Asean market and broader economic integration.
“..(It) focuses on priorities that intensify intra-Asean trade and investment in establishing Asean as a competitive market,” he added.
To boost market potential, the ACRF identified enabling trade facilitation in the new normal and strengthening supply chain connectivity and resilience through, among others, exploring the possibility of establishing an Asean database of manufacturers and
exporters for essential goods to promote supply chain resilience in times of crisis.
Other broad strategies of ACRF include enhancing health systems, strengthening human security, and advancing towards a more sustainable and resilient future.