ADB Urges SE Asian Nations to Close Digital Gap, Promote Equal Growth amid Covid

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - At the Southeast Asia Development Symposium today, October 21, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa urged Southeast Asian countries to expand investments in digital infrastructure and ensure equitable access to technology as economies recover from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

    “We must close the digital divide and expand existing investments in digital infrastructure by building more and higher quality mobile broadband infrastructure and ensuring affordable internet access and coverage,” Mr. Asakawa said in a keynote address at ADB’s first Southeast Asia Development Symposium.

    The steps, he said, can also enhance access to basic social services such as health and education and access to financial services.

    This year, the Southeast Asia Development Symposium is focused on providing knowledge support to countries as they recover from the pandemic’s economic and social impacts.

    At the symposium, Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati delivered an opening plenary speech followed by a high-level panel discussion titled The New Normal: Driving Economic Recovery through Digital Innovation. The panel featured Minister of Education and Culture Nadiem Anwar Makarim and ADB Vice-President Ahmed M. Saeed, among others.

    In his keynote address, Mr. Asakawa highlighted five key policy areas that can support developing economies in Southeast Asia as they return to a path of sustainable growth.

    The first is for nations to address regional disparities and ensure more equitable access to technology, including an expansion of investments in digital infrastructure to close the “digital divide”, while addressing cybersecurity.

    Second, facilitate a green and resilient recovery by promoting investments that drive economic activity toward low-carbon and resilient practices. Third, strengthen regional cooperation and integration by improving cross-border digital connectivity, e-customs systems, and electronic cargo tracking systems.

    Fourth, deepen institutional capacity for mobilizing domestic resources to finance public services, while ensuring debt sustainability.

    Fifth, incubate, develop, and congregate small and medium-sized enterprises with entrepreneurship and technology, supported by an aggregated financial, academic, and business ecosystem to help set the stage for tech-based growth.

    The one-day virtual event attracted more than 1,700 high-level government officials, private sector representatives, and other stakeholders from 57 countries.

    Read: ADB Endorses New 5-Year Partnership Strategy for Indonesia