ASEAN Foundation Unveils Research Findings on Digital Literacy, Spotlighting the Digital Divide Across the Region

SINGAPORE, April 11, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The ASEAN Foundation, with support from Google.org, unveiled research findings on digital literacy at the ASEAN Regional Symposium: Unveiling Insights into the Region’s Digital Literacy, held on March 20, 2024, in Bangkok. Titled “One Divide or Many Divides? Underprivileged ASEAN Communities’ Meaningful Digital Literacy and Response to Disinformation,” the study delves into the digital engagement of underprivileged ASEAN communities. It examines their knowledge, skills, experiences, and responses to disinformation with the aim of establishing a baseline understanding of digital literacy’s role in recognizing and responding to disinformation within these communities.

This research is one of the flagship programs of the ASEAN Digital Literacy Programme (ASEAN DLP), following the successful empowerment of over 190,000 individuals across ASEAN with essential digital literacy skills. The ASEAN DLP includes direct outreach by the ASEAN Youth Advisory Group, which actively mobilizes the campaign through various social media channels, engaging 3,000 people through onsite activities and reaching over 900,000 on social media. It has also launched an e-learning platform addressing misinformation, www.DigitalClassASEAN.org.

“As the latest ASEAN Digital Literacy Programme research concludes, the ASEAN Foundation invites strategic stakeholders to attend and discuss the study reports and findings. This research covered quantitative survey and qualitative data collection from all 10 ASEAN member states. We are presenting it at this symposium so attendees can listen to insights and recommendations from each member country and have in-depth discussions with country researchers. We hope this research will help bridge the digital divide in the ASEAN region and create a more inclusive and safer digital space,” said Dr. Piti Srisangnam, Executive Director of ASEAN Foundation. 

According to the report, levels of critical thinking and privacy protection competence vary widely across ASEAN member states. Notably, Thailand exhibits the lowest percentage of individuals with high critical thinking skills, at 25%, contrasting with neighboring Cambodia’s impressive 62.2%. The Philippines is behind in privacy protection competence, with only 17.42% of individuals possessing high competence, while Singapore excels with 54.37%. Singapore consistently ranks highly in global innovation indices. While Singapore’s economic growth has fluctuated over the years, it experienced a significant increase in 2021. However, disparities persist in computer access, particularly among seniors and low-income households, limiting full digital participation. False information online poses a threat to trust and social cohesion, leading to government actions like the POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act).

The research identified several factors contributing to the complexities of digital inequality in Singapore. These include social and cultural factors such as social support networks, access to technology, and cultural attitudes towards technology use. Additionally, psychological factors such as individual motivations, cognitive abilities, and personality traits influence digital engagement. Lastly, material capital, referring to financial resources and their role in facilitating access to and utilization of digital technologies, was also found to be a significant factor.

The report underscores the importance of information literacy in the digital era, focusing on critical thinking and source evaluation skills. Suggested strategies to bridge the digital divide include initiatives like the Silver Infocomm Junctions program for seniors, integrating computer science into the school curriculum, and fostering social support networks among communities and families for guidance on digital technologies. Ensuring equitable access to resources, including affordable devices and reliable internet connectivity, remains crucial. Collaborative efforts are necessary to cultivate a more inclusive digital society and address persistent disinformation challenges, with a focus on continuous education and awareness campaigns.

With the release of these groundbreaking findings, the ASEAN Foundation aims to spark meaningful discussions and foster collaborative efforts among stakeholders to address the multifaceted digital literacy challenges facing the ASEAN region. Its goal is to strengthen community resilience against mis/disinformation through comprehensive digital literacy programs and stakeholder engagement, taking into consideration infrastructure disparities, socio-cultural influences, and varying government initiatives across ASEAN.

As Marija Ralic, Lead for Google.org APAC, said, “We are proud to support the ASEAN Foundation in empowering people across the region with crucial media literacy and online safety skills. Google.org’s dedication to fostering digital safety aligns perfectly with the ASEAN Foundation’s mission to empower ASEAN communities through digital literacy which will contribute to digitally resilient ASEAN.” Previously, Google.org supported the ASEAN Foundation with a $1.5 million grant to aid the implementation of ASEAN DLP from 2022 to 2024.

The ASEAN Regional Symposium was also attended by the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the ASEAN Foundation, representatives from Google.org, representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat, local implementing partners of ASEAN DLP, ASEAN entities, think tanks and digital literacy experts in the region. The  symposium concluded with a panel discussion on “From Divide to Empowerment: Strategies for Inclusive Digital Literacy in ASEAN.” that discussed empowerment strategies towards inclusive digital literacy, especially among the underprivileged communities in ASEAN.

About the ASEAN Foundation

Three decades after ASEAN was established, ASEAN leaders recognised that there remained inadequate shared prosperity, ASEAN awareness, and contact among people of ASEAN. It was out of this concern that ASEAN leaders established the ASEAN Foundation during ASEAN’s 30th Anniversary Commemorative Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 15 December 1997.

The ASEAN Foundation is an organization by and for the people of ASEAN. The Foundation exists because of one vision: to build a cohesive and prosperous ASEAN Community. As an ASEAN body, the Foundation is tasked to support ASEAN mainly in promoting awareness, identity, interaction, and development of the people of ASEAN. For more info about the ASEAN Foundation, visit www.aseanfoundation.org.

About Google.org

Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, brings the best of Google to help solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges by combining funding, product donations, and technical expertise to support underserved communities and improve opportunities for everyone. It engages nonprofits, social enterprises, and civic entities who make a significant impact on the communities they serve, and whose work has the potential to produce scalable, meaningful change.

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SOURCE ASEAN Foundation