Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, countries in the Asia-Pacific region are forging ahead with their respective digital transformations. While this process and its policy environment may look different in each Asia-Pacific nation, the end goal is the same: prosperous economies and societies in an increasingly digital world.
With this shared objective in mind, the webinar Digital Transformation for Digital Economies @COVID-19 South Asia was held as part of the 20th Global Symposium for Regulators. The virtual event featured concrete recommendations designed to help regulators, policy makers and industry leaders in Asia and the Pacific to better understand the digital transformation in their region and what tools can create enabling policy environments despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic.
Organized by ITU in partnership with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and GSMA, representatives from national regulatory authorities, the private sector and other stakeholders came together to share experiences and to advance discussions on easing regulations in order to fast-track digital transformation in the post-COVID-19 era.
Speakers highlighted digital strategies and innovative solutions adopted in response to connectivity challenges and the need for digital connectivity in areas like health, education, work-from-home, which have emerged amid the crisis.
Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, highlighted how the digital sector seems certain to play a strong role in Asia-Pacific’s post-COVID recovery, with the shift of economic activity to the cloud and the need for mobile trace and other tech solutions benefiting a great many Asian countries which already have a very strong presence in the digital economy.
“The rise in demand for digital applications, combined with enabling policies designed to support the tech sector across the region, could spur digital innovation and boost digital entrepreneurs, further improving regional growth and development prospects,” she said. “But let’s always remember that Asia is region of strong contrasts. Not every country is positioned to take advantage of a surge in demand for technology. So, as we make our plans to leverage ICTs for a tech-led recovery, it is imperative that we ensure that all countries benefit, and that no-one is left behind.”
COVID-19 recovery: From crisis to opportunity
The event also featured a report on the impact of COVID-19 in South Asia as a part of the UNESCAP Framework on Socio-Economic Response to the pandemic. The report argues that government action should not push a return to the status quo, but rather turn the crisis into an opportunity to create more equal, sustainable, and resilient societies in South Asia, which will aid the sub-region in closing the SDG gaps that are currently present.
“The policy makers, regulators and stakeholders have realized that the digital transformation can be achieved by giving the necessary impetus to their digital infrastructure, strategies and innovative policy initiatives,” said TRAI Chairman Dr. R.S. Sharma. “I urge all the ICT regulators, governments and service providers to come together and resolve to take adequate steps in achieving the digital transformation which will enable us to overcome the present pandemic crisis.”
According to Julian Gorman, Head of Asia Pacific at GSMA, “COVID-19 has forced policy makers from even the most advanced markets to reconsider whether enough is being done to modernize telecoms regulatory frameworks and facilitate transformation of economies for an inclusive and resilient digital vision.” He went on to point how South Asia policy makers must understand the need for a whole-of-government approach to create strong and sustainable foundations supporting digital transformation and a competitive environment that attracts the investment and innovation necessary to deliver it. “Without rapid and meaningful regulatory reform, nations risk further delays to an inclusive digital future and falling behind the progress seen elsewhere,” said Mr. Gorman. “We welcome ITU’s efforts and the invitation to collaborate on how to best inspire policy makers, to influence a productive dialogue and agree the actions to deliver inclusive digital growth”
The road to seamless connectivity
Another important topic debated was how to best protect people during the pandemic.
Speakers from the region discussed country-specific efforts and challenges while also talking about the way forward on seamless digital connectivity for all. The deliberation focused on how lessons learned from COVID-19 can help hone a stronger response for enhancing connectivity, such as infrastructure sharing. Enhancing cooperation benefits not only national connectivity but also sub-regional connectivity. Promoting affordable access, in particular for landlocked countries, flexible licensing regimes and easier and efficient spectrum allocation strategies are needed for transformation into a digital economy while following the whole-of-government approach mentioned by Mr. Gorman.
Members of industry provided their own insights on analyzing and reporting on quality of service, consumer’s real-world mobile network experience at a large scale and spectrum-related issues in the wireless industry, as well as the perspective of social media for enhancing connectivity with a focus on digital inclusion.
All in all, the expected output of this GSR Regional Regulatory Roundtable, coupled with the engaging participation of ITU Member States, national regulatory authorities, and private sector representatives exemplifies the growing importance of uniting forces and synergies.
The Asia-Pacific Regional Initiative on Enabling Policy and Regulatory Environments offered an excellent opportunity for building upon the outcomes of GSR-2020, including Best Practice Guidelines, while providing expert and technical assistance, adapting countries’ regulatory environment to foster the development of the gigabit society, resistant to natural hazards, including pandemics such as COVID-19.
More information on the roundtable, including the outcome report, is available here.
Source : MyITU News