by ASILA JALIL / pic credit: adb.org
ECONOMIES in South-East Asia should leverage the accelerating adoption of technology amid the Covid-19 pandemic to assist in the recovery process and help countries achieve sustainable development goals.
Asian Development Bank president Masatsugu Asakawa (picture) said there are five pillars the regional economies should consider digital technology to play an indispensable role in the recovery period after the pandemic.
Asakawa said it is vital for countries to address regional disparities and ensure more access to technology which could enhance access to basic social services, such as health, education and financial services.
“For this, we must close the digital divide and expand existing investment in this type of infrastructure by building more and higher quality mobile broadband infrastructure and ensuring affordable Internet access and coverage,” he said during his opening remarks at the online South-East Asia Development Symposium yesterday.
Investments in these developments will enable countries to address the income inequality and disparities in opportunities that were brought about by the pandemic, said Asakawa.
Countries in the region should also facilitate green and resilient recovery by promoting investments that drive economic activities towards low carbon and resilient practices.
Asakawa said these efforts can be accelerated by pushing for investments in related technology such as an international transport system that can support real-time traffic control and transport routing systems to manage congestion, while reducing air pollution.
“The third pillar is for the countries to seize opportunities that globalisation can offer post-pandemic by strengthening regional cooperation and integration.
“Regional cooperation can help build resilience against health security risks,” he said.
Asakawa said the regional economies need to strengthen institutional capacity for mobilising domestic resources as this would put them in a better position to finance public services which ensures sustainability.
To support the moves, Asakawa added it is important for these countries to vigorously develop and congregate small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with technology.
“It is imperative for countries to help aggregate a financial, academic and business ecosystem that can create cutting-edge industrial bases just like Silicon Valley.
“This will position South-East Asia to a new digital age of prosperity,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry industrial policy director Vimala Murugan said regional collaboration will be beneficial in helping severely impacted economies recover from the pandemic.
She said the supply chain disruption caused by the pandemic over the last 10 months has taken a big toll on industrial development.
“If we have this regional collaboration and also the right connectivity to understand what we can do to leverage the strength that we have, it will be beneficial in terms of training, as well as educating industries,” she said during a panel session yesterday.
She also said companies, especially SMEs in Malaysia now, have more confidence to embark on the digital transformation and adoption after having discussions with the ministry on ways to develop further.
“Companies had no confidence in this matter when we first embarked on it because IR4.0 seems like a big name along with the high cost in engagement.
“We have talked to them and they are now more comfortable to come on board.”