ASEAN states must invest in next generation to overcome disparity in digital skills
31 Aug 2020
ASEAN member states must invest in the next generation as the potential of the region has always been limited by the disparity in digital skills among the countries, prominent Malaysian entrepreneur Datuk Seri Vijay Eswaran said.
He said the COVID-19 environment has fostered this tremendous growth in terms of digital skills, particularly across the youth in ASEAN.
“The future depends on how these digital skills will bring us together,” Vijay, who is also executive chairman of the QI Group of Companies, said when addressing the 2020 ASEAN Leadership and Partnership Forum and Virtual Conference recently.
His call comes as ASEAN Economic Ministers wrapped up their 52nd meeting via a digital platform and reaffirmed their resolve to ensure macroeconomic and financial stability and continuous supply chain connectivity, particularly for the flow of essential goods and services within the region that are necessary to address COVID-19.
Vijay said that it was the digital frontier that represents a new area where entrepreneurship could grow.
Governments should work together to increase digital adoption, learning new skills, thinking creatively and developing new business models.
“If we think as a region, then there is a real hope for the future moving ahead. If we start saying ASEAN first, then ASEAN will have a viable future for us all,” he said.
He also said ASEAN members should unite as a formidable adversary and trading bloc, using their economic clout to compete with superpowers like China and the US.
Otherwise, if they remain divided and act unilaterally, member states run the risk of becoming irrelevant,
Individually, not any of the 10 ASEAN economies were capable of taking on the trading blocs across the world, which was why it was imperative for them to put their differences aside in pursuing collective goals and if they want to emerge as an economic powerhouse.
Vijay also pointed out that Malaysia and Thailand are the two unique forces that can bridge the divide to work together, especially in efforts to bring down barriers such as tariffs and border controls and recognising each other’s skill sets, and encouraging free movement of labour.
He said Malaysia and Thailand represent the real hope of this happening and that both countries should take lead roles as bridging agents to integrate the rest of ASEAN, specifically connecting the North and South which will open up the region significantly.