By Muhammad Basir Roslan
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – As ASEAN transitions towards a digital economy and forges ahead to further deepen economic integration and community building, information and communications technology (ICT) is expected to play an increasingly pivotal role in the region.
Discussions on strategies to achieve a seamlessly and comprehensively connected and integrated ASEAN are expected to be taken to the next level at the 1st ASEAN Digital Ministers Meeting (ADGMIN1) and ASEAN Digital Senior Officials Meeting (ADGSOM) to be hosted by Malaysia in January 2021.
Ministry of Communications and Multimedia (KKMM) International Division Undersecretary Mano Verabathran said the focus of ADGMIN1 and ADGSOM1 would be on strengthening cooperation among ASEAN member states towards the development of a digital ecosystem that will serve as the pillar for development plans post-COVID-19.
“The emphasis will be on reaffirming the interests of ASEAN centrality and unity in its community-building efforts in the areas of cybersecurity, personal data protection, 5G, promoting innovation and e-commerce,” he told Bernama.
Mano said the ADGSOM and ADGMIN meetings, which will set policy recommendations for the ASEAN-level ICT sector, are essential in order to develop a common framework to coordinate the exchange of information, establishment of standards and cooperation among ASEAN member states pertaining to the ICT and telecommunications sector, including the roll-out of 5G networks.
ADGMIN1, which will take place on Jan 21 and 22, is the annual meeting by ASEAN ministers in charge of information technology and telecommunications to discuss current issues and trends as well as the direction for the agenda for ASEAN ICT development.
“The meeting will be chaired by Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah. The vice-chairman is Myanmar’s Minister of Transport and Communications Thant Sin Maung,” he said.
Meanwhile, ADGSOM, to take place from Jan 18 to 20, will be chaired by KKMM Secretary-General Datuk Seri Haji Mohammad Mentek, along with his colleagues from ASEAN member nations.
The two meetings will also involve the participation of ASEAN’s dialogue partners (Japan, China, European Union, South Korea and India) and the International Telecommunications Union.
ADGMIN and ADGSOM were previously known as the ASEAN Telecommunications and Information Technology Ministers Meeting (ASEAN TELMIN) and ASEAN Telecommunications and Information Technology Senior Officials Meeting (ASEAN TELSOM) respectively.
The idea of establishing ASEAN TELMIN and ASEAN TELSOM came about during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Telecommunications and Information Technology Ministers Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, from May 24-26, 2000.
“As a result of the discussions, the first ASEAN TELSOM was held in October 2000 in Brunei in preparation for the inaugural ASEAN TELMIN on July 13 and 14, 2001, in Kuala Lumpur,” said Mano.
He said both platforms were absorbed under the ASEAN institutional framework and are assisted fully by the ASEAN Secretariat.
At ASEAN TELMIN in 2019 in Vientiane, Laos, the ministers agreed to rename TELMIN as ADGMIN and the senior officers meeting as ADGSOM.
Mano said the change in name was to reflect the role of ICT as an enabler of the digital transformation of other sectors as well as to propel the region towards a digitally-enabled economy and community.
Mano also said that having recognised that building trust in electronic transactions is crucial in encouraging people to adapt to digital transformation, the ASEAN Digital Data Governance Framework was developed to formulate administrative procedures and data flow mechanisms among ASEAN member states.
Meanwhile, ADGMIN and ADGSOM will also focus on the development of 5G networks in ASEAN member states, as well as coordinate efforts to enable them to jointly reap the benefits of the technology through the Development of Policy Recommendations for 5G Ecosystem Development project.
The meetings will also see ASEAN taking the opportunity to enhance cooperation with its dialogue partners – Japan China, European Union, United States, South Korea and India, as well as the International Telecommunications Union – in improving ICT literacy skills, human resource development, exploration of new technologies and enhancing capacity to check cyber risks.
ASEAN DIGITAL MASTERPLAN 2025
Mano said the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025 is also expected to be launched at next month’s ADGMIN.
He said the objective of the plan is to strengthen ASEAN digital cooperation from 2021 to 2025 in order to realise its vision of turning the region into a leading digital community and economic bloc, powered by secure and transformative digital services, technologies and ecosystem.
“This masterplan will steer the development of the ASEAN digital sector in the next five years. It encompasses efforts to support the digital transformation of traditional sectors, create a fair and competitive digital market, develop a safe and reliable digital environment, create a smart digital community, create an inclusive, sustainable and accessible digital ecosystem for ASEAN, and turn ASEAN into a competitive economic bloc.
“The masterplan that is set to be launched will continue with the efforts implemented by two earlier masterplans, namely ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2015 and ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2020, in propelling ASEAN towards a digitally-enabled economy that is secure, sustainable and transformative, and to enable an innovative, inclusive and integrated ASEAN Community,” he added.
Translated by Rema Nambiar -BERNAMA