As societies recover and transform, three factors will be key to reinvigorating a post-pandemic ASEAN
9th March 2022
Like the rest of the world, ASEAN countries have been hard hit economically by the pandemic in the past two years. At the same time, however, the region has shown signs of long-term growth, despite the difficulties caused by the unprecedented disruption.This can be attributed to a stirring digital economy, whose growth rate has been far exceeding GDP growth in the past two years.
In 2020, the year the pandemic first struck, the region’s GDP fell 5.3 per cent, yet the digital economy, fuelled by services like e-commerce and ride hailing, grew an impressive 18.2 per cent.
For 2021, when nations had sought to keep their citizens safe while trying to return to a semblance of normalcy, ASEAN’s GDP is estimated to have grown a modest 3.9 per cent. The digital economy, meanwhile, expanded by 48.7 per cent. These numbers from a study by Google, Temasek Holdings and Bain & Company, show us that the region is already on the road to a post-pandemic recovery, though the journey has only just begun.
The pace will be accelerated in the months ahead, fuelled by more users consuming digital products and services. By 2025, the same study predicts, the ASEAN digital economy will hit US$363 billion, up from US$174 billion back in 2021.
It is clear organisations have to rapidly connect to this digital economy, if they wish to join the rest of the region in its post-pandemic recovery. They need to develop the right strategies to effectively transform for the new normal.
While digitalisation efforts are ongoing in all sectors today, there are three pillars which could be key to the region’s post-pandemic recovery.
Central to ASEAN’s reinvigoration will be the pace at which governments develop digitally.
In 2022, many in the region are still grappling with the 3S’s of change – security, supply chain and sustainability.
Security in the digital realm has to be improved and up to speed with the latest threats. Supply chains, which have been disrupted severely of late, have to be more resilient, while sustainability is becoming more important as countries urbanise and require more energy to drive their growth.
Key drivers for change here include automation for repetitive tasks, which could free up manpower for higher-value tasks, for example.
Visualisation technologies will also play a key roles, as will artificial intelligence (AI), in delivering new capabilities to governments, so they can better organise resources and play a key role in a strategy for growth.
Just as important here are data privacy and trust, two foundational elements that are needed to bring citizens and businesses onboard any digital platform and effort quickly.
Another foundational pillar of change will be healthcare. The pandemic has laid bare the urgency to revamp many systems that were stretched during the crisis.
As ASEAN consumers becoming increasingly connected, they will also expect the sector to keep up. Expectations for services will rise, as they have risen for other sectors such as logistics, entertainment and retail.
How can hospitals and clinics provide the best care by using digital technologies such as AI, for example, to diagnose and treat patients? Can these innovations help healthcare providers better serve patients who are tuned into wellness and health?
From revamping workflows to treat more patients more efficiently to pioneering new patient treatments to save lives, digital technologies ranging from data analytics to biometrics will enable healthcare providers to improve the delivery of care.
Just as the sector has been critical to the pandemic response, its development in the years ahead will also help energise ASEAN economies recovering from Covid-19.
A third pillar that will be fundamental to ASEAN’s recovery is the finance sector, especially as it undergoes its most profound transformations in the years ahead.
Already, the sector is in the midst of unprecedented disruption, with the arrival of digital banks, alternative asset classes like cryptocurrency and a growing movement for a more decentralised financial world.
Herein lies opportunity as well. The growth of digital assets, for example, means the need for cybersecurity and interoperability is even more urgent than before.
How can the established global financial systems and regulatory processes get up to speed with today’s developments? How can investors and consumers, as well as financial institutions, continue to thrive in this digitally connected future which still looks uncertain now?
There are no easy answers, though many financial institutions have already jumped into the fray by tapping on fundamental technologies, say, to improve know-your-customer (KYC) processes and anti-money laundering (AML).
Trust derived from one’s digital identity will be increasingly important, as more users turn to online transactions. Scams and identity theft, to be sure, will be challenges to be overcome for the sector to flourish.
And when it does, digital finance will be a key driver for ASEAN’s growth. It will be needed for so much of the digital economy, from payments to trade.
These three pillars introduced above cannot be achieved without a supportive, co-creation ecosystem that NEC is a strong advocate for. By having a clear vision of the future, organizations can seek and collaborate with like-minded partners to harness the power of digital technologies and take steps to realize the vision.
At the upcoming NEC Visionary Day ASEAN 2022, we will present a comprehensive overview of our vision for the future of ASEAN and the initiatives and capabilities we have to achieve it. The event include sessions with various guest speakers, customers and domain experts. Find out how digital technologies are fuelling ASEAN’s post-pandemic recovery at NEC Visionary Day 2022.
Senior Manager of Regional Public Relations
NEC Asia Pacific
Since starting her career at NEC Corporation, Satoko has taken on multiple responsibilities. During her time in Tokyo, her roles included driving product solution sales for the government sector, biometric product promotion, and leading corporate culture transformation. She was appointed Senior Manager, Public Relations, at NEC APAC in October 2020. Now based in Singapore, she drives NEC’s communication efforts in Southeast Asia.
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