At the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN, Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong gave a speech on why he thinks member states are “in a good position to take advantage of the new opportunities that this 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) can bring”.
ASEAN represents one of the most powerful single market and production base, comparative to the European Union. Its source of power is in the combined strengths of the ten member states.
In ASEAN, Unity is Power
According to Prime Minister Lee, the first area of advantage is the robust economies across the region. Over the last few years, ASEAN economies have grown significantly. By 2030, it will be the fourth-largest economy in the world, after the United States, China and the European Union. ASEAN’s reason to boast is its young, educated and tech-savvy workforce.
As a newly developing economy, the region does not need to undergo a frictional adoption period of change. Almost all of ASEAN’s citizens are comfortable with new technology. Furthermore, ASEAN economies are making commitments towards transforming into a digital economy. The effects of this transformation are estimated to amount to USD 200 billion by 2025.
In preparation for ASEAN’s time in the global economy, the Prime Minister assured the audience that the group is working towards strengthening a rules-based multilateral system. This will be important in facilitating trade. Moreover, clear rules and guidelines are pertinent in the setting up the parameters for unprecedented changes during Industry 4.0.
The economic integration at present is being burnished – the second reason for ASEAN’s prime. Prime Minister Lee said further integration is “an important condition for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, because it is about building networks, creating new synergies and staying connected.” Citing the example of the ASEAN Economic Blueprint 2025, an overall vision for the unity and connectivity of ASEAN, the Prime Minister reiterated the need for a seamless business network within the region. Businesses, small and medium sized ones in particular, are key to supporting the economy through their entrepreneurship.
Gearing up for Industry 4.0 in ASEAN
Following the theme of “resilience and innovation”, Singapore together with its ASEAN counterparts are championing tech driven public policy strategies.
The first two agreements centre on trade. The ASEAN Agreement on E-commerce streamlines e-commerce regulations. In turn, businesses can market and sell their products in ASEAN easily. The ASEAN Single Window initiative adds on to the convenience factor of the first agreement. Cross-border customs cargo clearance is sped up using a single online platform, effectively slashing transaction costs.
A second area of interest is in the ASEAN Smart Cities Network. Twenty-six pilot cities have been selected to integrate smart urban solutions. Several projects such as Chonburi’s Amata Smart City in Thailand and the Yokohama Urban Solution Alliance are already underway. In collaboration with external partners and private sector organisations, ASEAN will adopt technologies which builds advanced cities.
With members states ready to embrace technology as a unified whole, Singapore will be upgrading its three centres of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to become Singapore Cooperation Centres. Visitors can expect to receive a broader range of technical assistance beyond classroom-based courses. Classes leverage on Singapore’s best experiences and fosters collaborative learning environments.
Confidence in ASEAN
The list above is only some of the more exciting things ASEAN is embarking on. Going forward, Prime Minister Lee is sure that these practical steps to adopt technology will transform how ASEAN lives, works and plays.
Rounding up his speech, the Singapore stateman said, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a dynamic and continuing process. We cannot predict how exactly it will unfold, but I am optimistic about ASEAN’s future because ASEAN has its own competitive strengths, and by pooling our ideas and resources and integrating our economies, we will be in a strong position to ride on this fourth wave to bring tangible benefits to our economies and our peoples.”