ASEAN is Harnessing the Transformative Technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

  • New technologies will impact regional development and drive growth
  • Education and infrastructure are essential to deliver equitable and inclusive progress
  • Exclusion, unequal access and cyber-security threats are key risks
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Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 11 May 2017 – The ASEAN region is “turning a new chapter” as it embraces the Fourth Industrial Revolution, said Pichet Durongkaveroj, Thailand’s Minister of Digital Economy and Society, in a session at the 26th World Economic Forum on ASEAN. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution has come,” he said. “We must provide opportunities for the young generation and address the disadvantages of the have-nots.”

Durongkaveroj told participants that Thailand is committed to digital inclusion and providing opportunities to the poor. To that end, it will install high-speed broadband networks for 34,700 villages this year, and all villages by the end of next year, to enable them to thrive in the digital economy.

Janil Puthucheary, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Communications and Information, said Singapore has been committed to being open in trade and flow of people since its inception as a nation, and must be prepared to restructure its economy and priorities to “disrupt ourselves”. Global leaders must “embrace uncertainty”, he added.

Improving infrastructure and the application of that infrastructure is crucial to spreading the dividends of change equally, said Naveen Menon, President of ASEAN Cisco Systems Inc. Digitizing industries, especially banking, will be crucial. “I think industry can do a lot more,” he said. “The question is, which business leader will take it as their personal pride and personal mandate to drive change?”

Menon also talked of the unprecedented scale of cyber-security threat as a critical risk and a major obstacle to investment and consumer trust. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution presents tremendous opportunities,” he said, but stressed the necessity of addressing cyber-security and enabling education.

“Innovation and technology can make the world healthier,” said Caroline Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of ASEAN Pacific Royal Philips. She stressed the need to empower people to understand and manage their own health through the digital technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, deepening trends of personalized and inclusive healthcare and providing “new models of healthcare and digitalization”.

Enabling equal access to new technologies is another key challenge, said Gregory Dajer, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Medical Technology and Transfer Service, Viet Nam. “We’re talking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution but many people are barely out of the First Industrial Revolution.” He emphasized a commitment to providing world-class quality of healthcare at reasonable costs, and the need to avoid exclusion and close the gap between the top and bottom of the socio-economic pyramid.

“We have the tools to solve problems,” he added, “we just need to figure out how to use those tools.”

The panellists agreed that education is a priority to deliver inclusive growth. Puthucheary stressed the fundamentals of numeracy and literacy education and the necessity of getting the values behind education right, which will affect how populations deal with disruptive technologies. Policymakers must “involve the private sector in education of adults”, he said.

Durongkaveroj added that one emphasis in education should be on teaching “21st-century skills”, including teamwork and the ability to self-learn through the internet in an age of overwhelming information. Job automation is another potentially disruptive technology for the ASEAN region, he said. “Automation will come and we cannot resist it because it’s beneficial for industry. But we must get prepared for the social consequences, working collaboratively with the private sector.”

More than 700 business, government and civil society leaders from 40 countries are participating in the 26th World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from 10 to 12 May 2017. The theme of the meeting is Youth, Technology and Growth: Securing ASEAN’s Digital and Demographic Dividends.