3 ways to build a sustainable and digital Asia-Pacific

Many Asia-Pacific countries have published national digitization strategies.
Cloud and IT technologies are the cornerstone of the digital frontier.
For digital economies to thrive, they must embrace an open and green ecosystem.

The past two years have been a series of trials. These changes have sparked increasing attention in the digital world and reinvigorated the way people, businesses and organizations need to adapt.

As one of the most populous and diverse regions in the world, Asia-Pacific is expected to be the first rapidly growing economy at the forefront of the global digital landscape. It represents two-thirds of the world’s population and is said to reap an economic dividend of more than $1.7 trillion per year. McKinsey also notes that COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation by seven years globally and 10 years in Asia-Pacific.

To catch up with this drastic trend, many countries have published national digitization strategies. For example, Singapore released its Smart Nation 2025 plan, Indonesia and Malaysia released strategies for going digital, Bangladesh released its Digital Bangladesh plan, and Thailand announced its vision to become a digital hub in the ASEAN.

From a technology perspective, the future Asia-Pacific will require a digital economy supported by state-of-the-art information and communications technology (ICT) solutions and an open and green industrial ecosystem is needed as a breeding ground for innovation. . And finally, we will need to chart an effective path that closes the gaps in equality to level the playing field.

1. Building ICT infrastructure for a digital economy

ICTs have already proven their value in accelerating economic recovery from the pandemic. Connectivity and computing are the cornerstone of the digital frontier. As connectivity continues to bridge the digital divide by providing new education and employment opportunities, companies are turning to cloud, connectivity and AI to optimize their businesses.

However, the digital preparation of the region varies considerably. For example, China is embarking on the data dividend and the information dividend, and Southeast Asia (SEA) is still in the peak phase of the demographic dividend. In China, 5G has been widely covered across the country, and the penetration rate is over 40% – the home pass rate of 100+Mbps fiber is over 90%. However, the large-scale use of 5G is just beginning in some SEA countries. In SEA, 4G mobile coverage is slightly over 50%, and fiber broadband only reaches a third of households. Cloud penetration in SEA enterprises is less than 20%, indicating considerable space for data monetization and industry digitization.

The unprecedented disruption created by COVID-19 has accelerated digitalization and exposed inequalities in who benefits from the benefits of technology, increasing the urgency for an inclusive digital transformation.

The World Economic Forum’s platform for shaping the future of the digital economy and creating new value helps businesses and governments leverage technology to create new value for business and society in an unstable global environment . The platform aims to ensure universal 21st century digital infrastructure and inclusive digital services while transitioning to a new normal.

The Digital Transformation for Long-Term Growth program helps companies leverage digital technologies to create value for people, planet and prosperity.
The EDISON Alliance mobilizes leaders across industries to accelerate digital inclusion. It is committed to improving the lives of one billion people by 2025 through affordable access to digital solutions in education, health and financial services.

When it comes to 5G technology, it is already a game-changer in key industry sectors. For example, Siriraj Hospital, Thailand’s largest public hospital on the front line in the fight against COVID-19, launched the first 5G smart hospital in the ASEAN region with smart logistics, 5G ambulance and intelligent inventory management (see photo below). According to Professor Dr. Prasit Watanapa, Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University,

“The 5G smart hospital project will be a new model for modern medical facilities. 5G provides the high-speed connections needed to ensure seamless transfer of patient data and operation of telemedicine equipment. »

In some remote areas where access to 5G is limited, digital infrastructure plays an even more important role. The Government of Bangladesh has made great efforts and progress in establishing a network in more than 2,600 townships, representing 60% of the total townships in the country and enabling social welfare services including l e-government and finance.

In Malaysia, known as “the Kingdom of Spices”, HEXA Food established an Internet of Things (IoT) team to train a chili pepper identification model on Cloud ModelArts. Atlas 500’s image recognition technology quickly and accurately identifies the quality of chillies. AI-powered smart sorting eliminates manual sorting errors and improves efficiency by 50%.

2. Create an open and green ecosystem

Meanwhile, every country, business and individual has recently faced common questions: how to survive and grow with resilience and robustness in an environment full of uncertainties? The booming digital and low-carbon economy will generate new forms of business, new production relationships and new value distribution systems. A healthier and greener industrial ecosystem is therefore necessary.

First, the adoption of a digital Asia-Pacific will make an open and collaborative ICT ecosystem essential. These ecosystems will include government, partners, operators and users and will help shape transformation opportunities in different industries. A good example would be the joint open laboratory in Singapore. All businesses, academics, and government agencies can use the lab, where they will have access to cutting-edge robotic solutions, smart digital twins, and AI development kits for research.

Second, towards carbon neutrality, digital energy technologies will be key to enabling the digitalization of energy for a greener future. In Thailand, smart photovoltaic (PV) roofs are installed in more than 1,200 convenience stores. This is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,300 tonnes each year. By integrating AI and cloud into PV for optimal power generation, it makes the solar power plant highly efficient, safe and reliable and lays the foundation for solar to become the primary power source.

3. Chart a sustainable and inclusive path

At the same time, we must be aware that half the world still does not have access to the Internet. In Asia-Pacific, according to the APNIC Foundation, the region’s total Internet adoption rate remains below half of the total population at 48.4%. By 2023, it is estimated that this figure will rise to 72% (3.1 billion users), leaving more than a quarter of the region’s population still disconnected.

This is simply untenable in an increasingly digital world, people cannot be empowered by technology if they don’t know how to use it. Services such as mobile payments, government services, access to digital education and healthcare should all act as gateways to everyone and help underserved communities, including women, girls and children. older generations.

Take the example of education, the ability to acquire knowledge regardless of location has helped to democratize access to educational resources. In the Philippines, PLDT-Smart Foundation (PSF) worked with the technology company to promote the School-in-a-Bag project. Each backpack includes a laptop for the teacher, 20 tablets and a Smart LTE pocket Wi-Fi kit. It has significantly improved students’ learning abilities, helped children assimilate their lessons, and improved teaching strategies.

The future is digital

Technology has the power to level the playing field. It can bring education, healthcare and jobs to anyone, anywhere in the world. It will revolutionize business and industry and it can help manage our use of global resources to enable a sustainable and green future.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the digital economy is driving social recovery and enabling a resilient future. It provides synergies for public-private industry collaborations across country borders and scenarios. As we come to the precipice of a digital future, we must strive to focus on the harmony that exists between our real world and the digital world to come.

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