With the Covid-19 outbreak wreaking havoc across industries and the global supply chain, governments and businesses around the world accelerated their digital transformation. Such initiatives have taken front seat in Asia—home to the world’s factories—with the region stepping up investments on technological innovations needed to power the new normal post the pandemic.
China—a regional leader in adopting cutting-edge artificial intelligence, blockchain and cloud computing technologies—seeks to speed up the roll out of laws on protecting personal information as data analytics becomes prevalent in the country’s pursuit of smart nation status. The new regulations are embodied in its 14th five-year plan, which runs from 2021 to 2025.
South Korea has pledged to invest US$94 million in 2021 to support the tech industry in AI and 5G networks as part of its “Digital New Deal” initiative. Japan’s Growth Strategy Council has drafted a plan calling for the stimulation of innovation that involves digital transformation and grooming a greener society.
Countries across southeast Asia have launched their respective digitalization initiatives after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) adopted the “Asean Digital Masterplan 2025”—a roadmap for the group’s digital cooperation from 2021 to 2025—in January.
In Indonesia, the “Making Indonesia 4.0” roadmap is helping the country’s industrial sector create new business models using digital technologies. Singapore’s plan is embodied in its Digital Government Blueprint, which aims to better leverage data and harness new technologies. In Thailand, the government has introduced the “Thailand 4.0” economic model, which utilizes digitalization to enhance the quality of life in the country.
Malaysia’s MyDIGITAL, which was launched in February, aims to transform the country into a regional leader in the digital economy. Under the blueprint, the government aims to attract US$16.5 billion worth of digital investments to boost the contribution of digital products and services to the country’s GDP to 22.6% by 2025 from 19.1% currently.
Focus On Cyber Security
To coordinate and manage new digital investments, the Malaysian Digital Economy Corp. (MDEC) has teamed up with the Malaysian Investment Development Authority to set up the Digital Investment Office (DIO). Initiatives run by the DIO will be guided by MDEC’s “Digital Investments Future5” strategy.
A key initiative in Malaysia’s digital transformation strategy calls for the fortification of the country’s cyber security defences. This is important given the growing threat of ransomware attacks—where cyber criminals steal data, encrypt and hold the digital infrastructure hostage until organizations pay the ransom, according to U.S.-based FireEye Mandiant.
The security specialist warns that governments and businesses urgently need to take prompt and preventive action to safe-guard their critical infrastructure against cyberattacks. Organizations can no longer treat cyber security as an inconvenient byproduct of doing business but must be engineered from the ground up.
To do so effectively, organizations must conduct a comprehensive audit, identify the weak spots and work with experts who can implement automated solutions to deal with cyber security threats and breaches.
Throughout its history, the ASEAN has been resilient against economic and geopolitical crisis that has affected member countries in the past and more so now that the group is battling the challenges of the lingering Covid-19 pandemic. To recover and thrive again, the region would need to strengthen their cooperation.
“The digital economy is critical,” Lim Jock Hoi, ASEAN secretary general, said at a webinar organized by the CIMB Asean Research Institute in July 2020. “As you know, the pandemic has forced a lot of people to use digital technology and it is very refreshing to see that every one of us has adapted. In future, the economic driver will very much be in this area. We are looking at how best to use this as part of our post-pandemic recovery plan.”