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Minister S Iswaran highlights Southeast Asia’s potentials as the region grows on the digital front

At the technology event ConnecTech Asia, Singapore Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran delivered his opening address, highlighting Southeast Asia’s potential as the region rapidly develops on the digital front.

“This is truly an exciting time to be in Asia, especially Southeast Asia which remains one of the fastest-growing regions in the world,” said Minister Iswaran.

Over the last decade, ASEAN has achieved an average annual growth rate of 6%, higher than the global average of 4%. This trajectory is expected to continue, with an annual growth forecast of around 5% with ASEAN predicted to be the fourth-largest economy in the world by 2030.

At the same time, the region has a growing middle class and a population of 630 million people, more than half of whom are under the age of 30 and actively contributing to the remarkable growth in the region’s internet economy.

“Today, ASEAN has 330 million internet users, with 70 million new users since 2015. 90% of these users spend almost 4 hours a day on the mobile internet through their smartphones, the highest average in the world,” the Minister said.

He then explained that these “young, tech-savvy and connected citizens” are ready to shift ASEAN’s engine of growth to the next gear and seize the opportunities that technology and the digital economy have to offer them.

“We see this for example in e-commerce, where online shopping in Southeast Asia’s six biggest economies is projected to reach US$64.8 billion in 2021, compared to US$37.7 billion last year. The ride-hailing market has also grown four-fold since 2015 and is expected to be over US$20 billion by 2025. Even more significantly, ASEAN’s digital economy has the potential to contribute an additional US$1 trillion to our regional GDP by 2025,” he said.

Minister Iswaran then moved on to talk about what these tremendous opportunities mean for Singapore.

“Singapore is at the heart of all these developments and growth, and we are well-positioned to contribute to and benefit from these significant regional opportunities,” the Minister said.

He iterated that with Singapore at the epicenter, the Government’s InfoComm and Media Industry (ITM) Transformation Map and Digital Economy Framework for Action, which were recently launched at the Singapore Digital (SG:D) Industry Day, will prepare Singapore to be a leading digital economy.

According to Minsiter Iswaran, these initiatives highlight some of the country’s efforts to ensure that Singapore deepens its capabilities, stays competitive and becomes a global node in Asia.

“The ITM for instance aims to grow Singapore’s ICM industry’s value-add by around 6% annually. It is also expected to not only employ more than 210,000 workers, but also add more than 13,000 new PMET jobs by 2020,” he said.

“Together with the Framework for Action, it will prepare Singapore to be a leading digital economy. All these initiatives that we have been launching and enhancing over these past years will chart Singapore’s way forward towards the digital future. With these plans, we aim to remain nimble and continually adapt ourselves so as to turn challenges into opportunities for growth and success,” he added.

As reported earlier, the Digital Economy Framework for Action introduced by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) comprises three thrusts: (1) accelerate digitalisation journeys of industries and companies, (2) strengthen Singapore’s ability to compete internationally, and (3) transform the ICM sector.

At the same time, the Minister pointed out that Singapore has also been strengthening its economic links and integration with the region and the world. One of the examples he names is the Global Innovation Alliance which was launched last year to broaden and deepen Singapore’s network of overseas partners in major hubs and demand markets with a focus on technology and innovation, such as San Francisco, Beijing, Bangkok and Jakarta.

According to the Minister, the Global Innovation Alliance will allow Singaporean workers and companies to gain overseas experience, build international networks and collaborate with their counterparts on innovation and new products and services.

Given Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship this year, the country has also proposed the establishment of the ASEAN Smart Cities Network as a collaborative platform where ASEAN cities such as Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Yangon, will work together with Singapore towards the common goal of smart and sustainable urban development.

“These networks extend beyond companies and markets involved in the technology space. Not only will they synergise innovation, entrepreneurship and digital technology across these cities and our region, they will also facilitate and accelerate all other types of business and investment opportunities across our economies,” said Minister Iswaran.

Held at the Marina Bay Sands and Suntec Singapore, the three-day technology event ConnecTech Asia is an umbrella event encompassing CommunicAsia, BroadcastAsia, and the inaugural NXTAsia. The business platform covers the whole ecosystem of info-communications, broadcasting and emerging technologies. The event is expected to draw over 35,000 attendees, 1,800 exhibitors and over 220 thought leaders.

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