Labour migration is a global phenomenon. Every year, millions of workers migrate outside their home countries in search of better opportunities for higher-paying jobs in the face of limited productive employment in their home countries. This is an enduring narrative amidst regional integration, digital and greening transformations, demographic transitions, and climate change.
There has never been a better time to trade with thriving Southeast Asia.
According to the 2020 Global Digital Report, the average internet penetration rate in Southeast Asia is 66 per cent. The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated digital adoption in the region, making its citizens more reliant on the Internet than ever. The region is undoubtedly poised to take its position amongst the world’s top digital economies.
We, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), gathered for the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits on 11 November 2022 under the Chairmanship of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The Summits were chaired by Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia and convened in
Waccordance with the ASEAN Charter.
The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Council held the 28th ASCC Council meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 13 October 2022—its first in-person meeting in two years. The meeting discussed the strategic direction for ASCC and its cross-pillar and cross-sectoral work.
Throughout 2022, ASEAN and the European Union have held many great events in Jakarta, throughout Southeast Asia, and in the cyber sphere, including a joint photo exhibition, a bike ride, a cultural festival, a comic strip competition, a series of video reflections by eminent persons along with a Young Leaders’ Forum. All of these events are connected by a common thread—celebrating the 45th anniversary of the establishment of our Dialogue Partnership that has, over the past decades, come to form a rich, colourful and multi-layered fabric.
The Global Data latest report, Tourism Destination Market Insight: ASEAN (2021), forecast intra-regional tourism in ASEAN to grow by 5 per cent, from 2019 to 2024, to reach 56.6 million visitors. Now more than ever, it is a time for ASEAN countries to be united, turning challenges into opportunities, leveraging digital connectivity by coming together, by bits and bytes.
In cities, it is common to see people, young and old, glued to their cellphones and reaping the benefits of various apps in the market. It is not always the case for small and micro-entrepreneurs living on the outskirts of the cities.
Although these entrepreneurs may use social media, they do so for connection and entertainment and not as a platform to grow their businesses. With digitalisation becoming the new normal, these entrepreneurs need to catch up. The Go Digital ASEAN programme was launched precisely to bridge the skills gap.
The programme sought to help small business owners overcome their fear and mistrust of the technology, craft a brand-new way to market their products, and establish their strong presence in the digital realm. The ASEAN interviewed two of the over 130,000 women trainees under the programme.
Across Southeast Asia, the digital landscape has become a contested arena, as governments and private companies seek to both drive economic growth and protect and control data flows. This fragmented regional environment tends to widen the digital divide, as only large tech companies have the resources to be effective privatesector players. Meanwhile, micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the drivers of most economies in the region, are left without the skills needed to reap the dividends of the digital economy. Governments and private companies have embraced skills training and digitisation to boost growth and recover from the economic damage of COVID-19, but there is a difference between recognising the importance of including underserved populations and effectively reaching those groups with resources they can use.
In a worldwide race towards digital economy transition, ASEAN is set to pull ahead of the throng.
After experiencing the ravages of a global pandemic, ASEAN Member States are now sharing knowledge to mitigate similar catastrophic events in the future. They are also realising that everyone needs to be protected and as such, are now embracing universal health care as a shared key capability consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030. We propose a simple and easy to remember strategy to build digital health capability within and between countries in the ASEAN. Gleaned from over ten years of learning as peers at the Asia eHealth Information Network (AeHIN), the Mind the GAPS, Fill the GAPS framework aims to bring stakeholders inside and outside of the health sector to work together in building their digital health capabilities towards the vision of health for all.
Since the establishment of ASEAN in 1967, education has been one of the key areas for collaboration. However, the focus on education collaboration in ASEAN has shifted from cooperation to collaboration in relation to human resource development and eventually in support of the ASEAN Communitybuilding project.
At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, my homeland the Lao PDR, like many other nations, closed its schools. Over 1.7 million children in the Lao PDR suffered from learning loss during this period. In ASEAN, school closure resulted in an unprecedented and sudden disruption of education for around 152 million children and youth in 2020. The Lao PDR and all other ASEAN countries carried out online learning. We soon found out, however, that the requisite infrastructure for online education was far from sufficient.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains and exposed longstanding structural issues in the container industry. Addressing these problems will be crucial to unlocking the growth and potential of the ASEAN region and advancing economic integration. As a response to record high container freight rates, shortage of empty containers and congestion at ports due to COVID-19-related disruptions, the ASEAN Secretariat (Transport Division) and Thailand, with support from the Australian Government through Partnerships for Infrastructure (P4I), initiated a practical study to promote container circulation in the ASEAN region. This initiative is a Priority Economic Deliverable for Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2022.
On 16 October 2022, the 28th ASEAN Transport Ministers (ATM) Meeting adopted the Implementation Framework on Enhancing Container Processing and Circulation in the ASEAN Member States, including its Action Plan, which is based on the empirical findings of the study and provides practical strategies and measures to assist the ASEAN Member States in enhancing container circulation. Implementing these agreed actions is expected to promote the resilience of regional container shipping, maritime transport logistics and multimodal transport, which in turn, would bolster intra-ASEAN and international trade flows in the region
When Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi took on the mantle of leadership in 2018, his goals for the ASEAN Secretariat were clear: to be proactive, provide better support to Member States, and move along the implementation of the ASEAN Community blueprints.
He ends his 5-year tenure with these goals fulfilled.
As part of the global community, ASEAN is also experiencing the mega trends of digitalisation and technological advancement. It is an irreversible process, albeit at different paces across Member States. Therefore, adaptation is not an option but a necessity across public and private spheres, including in the civil service. ASEAN Member States are in the midst of modernising their civil service, and the COVID-19 pandemic provided an impetus to accelerate it. Amidst lockdown and movement restrictions, as part of public health measures, the digitalisation of public services improved the accessibility and timeliness of responses to citizens’ needs.
ACCSM Chair Ajman Meludin shares ASEAN’s goals and plans for the civil service sector, following the increased demand for online public services as a result of the pandemic. He discusses the challenges of improving the digital infrastructure and building the capacity of civil servants to deliver digital services efficiently.
Managing personal finances could seem like solving a complex equation—from figuring out how to save money without losing your social life or cutting down on meal expenses, to dealing with your parents’ poor financial choices. Looking for solutions to your everyday money problems? Online resources like The Simple Sum are offering informed answers.
Women-led micro and small-sized enterprises in Cambodia can now keep track of their finances through an easy-touse bookkeeping app, Kotra Riel.
When we travel, it is almost inevitable to hit some potholes on the road. As passengers, bumpy rides that jolt us out of sleep can be quite unpleasant and even hazardous.
Thirty-three-year-old Chai Kok Chin says this is a problem in his hometown in Sarawak, Malaysia, so he sought to remedy it for the sake of comfort and safety.
Chai and his team at NEUON developed RoadPlus, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect and report potholes. This technology makes it easier for authorities to monitor road conditions and dispatch repair crews, especially under the Zero Potholes Initiative. RoadPlus is also designed to reduce traffic congestion and improve connectivity. Chai believes that better and safer roads can lead to higher productivity.
The team introduced the technology at MyHackathon 2020, a Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation competition to look for innovative ideas and solutions that would benefit Malaysians. RoadPlus became one of the winners.
Now, Chai and his team continue to work with municipalities across Sarawak to mainstream the initiative. They participated in the ASEAN-India Start-Up Festival in Cibinong, Indonesia, in October 2022 to promote the use of this technology beyond Sarawak.
Soaking in the stunning views of Koh Rong Samloem’s pristine beaches while feasting on fresh seafood are some of Langda Chea’s most cherished memories. The 33-year-old travels whenever he needs to recharge from work. However, the ardent traveller recalls that getting to Cambodia’s gorgeous white sands and scuba diving spots was once a challenge. Growing up in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Langda has had some unpleasant experiences during his intercity trips.
Taking a larn taxi (រថយន្តតាក់ស៊ី), operated by drivers everyone calls “uncles,” was the fastest and the most convenient option to get from Phnom Penh to his parent’s hometown in Battambang City. Larn is a shared taxi, which usually accommodates 4-5 passengers at a time. Langda struggled with uncles at crowded terminals where they would fight tooth and nail for potential customers. Langda says the ordeal made him feel like prey hunted by vultures.
As much as securing taxi rides were always unpleasant for him, Langda would dutifully make the trip home every Khmer New Year, Pchum Ben and other special occasions. After making countless intercity trips, he finally realised: he could do something to make his journey more enjoyable.
While on a five-hour larn ride to Battambang City, he got the inspiration to build an online platform, BookMeBus, so customers can book seats on a bus or shared taxi ahead of time. This way, he thought, the customers would fight for their seats, not the other way around. During the 253-kilometre excursion, Langda convinced the uncle, who was driving him, that it was a feasible idea.
In 2015, his idea came to fruition, and both drivers and passengers hopped on the BookMeBus platform. Since then, many Cambodian travellers have been enjoying safer and more comfortable trips by bus, ferry, and taxi. The booking service is now also available for trips to Viet Nam, Thailand, and the Lao PDR. Two years after it launched, BookMeBus won a gold medal in the start-up category of the ASEAN Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Awards.
After completing high school in Singapore as an ASEAN Scholarship awardee, Gary Evano Daniel headed home to Jakarta to continue his education. With a penchant for business and good food, he dived into Jakarta’s food scene with his friends. Gary is now the managing director of Puyo Group, an F&B brand aggregator with brands like Puyo Desserts and HAKA Dimsum Shop.
Gary put his experience in business operations and marketing to good use by quickly adapting to the use of digital technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, which helped his businesses stay afloat and even grow. The 29-year-old entrepreneur is now keen on helping other businesses to seize the opportunities provided by digital technologies to similarly expand their business. Gary shares his experience with The ASEAN.
Rusda Salaeh, a 29-year-old mother of three, is a freelance translator based in Thailand. She has been working as a professional linguist-translator for eight years, since graduating with a Master’s degree in Linguistics from Universitas Airlangga, Indonesia. Rusda uses the Thai-based digital freelance platform, Fastwork, and various social media channels to market her skills and services, which include translating Thai text into Indonesian, Malaysian, or English, and vice versa. She believes that freelance or gig work comes with many advantages, but also has a downside, and that the pandemic gave many people a taste of what it’s like to do freelance work.
The 2022 edition of the ASEAN Artists Residency Programme (AARP) brought two ASEAN artists to the global stage, offering a month-long residency programme at the Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates.