ERIA Launches Digital Innovation and Sustainable Economy Centre (DISC) to Drive ASEAN’s Technological and Economic Future Digital Economy

ERIA Launches Digital Innovation and Sustainable Economy Centre (DISC) to Drive ASEAN’s Technological and Economic Future Digital Economy

The Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) proudly announces the launch of the Digital Innovation and Sustainable Economy Centre (DISC), a visionary initiative poised to shape the future of ASEAN and East Asia through digital innovation and sustainable economic growth.

The region is undergoing a transformative shift, as digital technologies revolutionize traditional business paradigms, propelling industries beyond incremental progress to disruptive innovation. DISC embodies this digital renaissance, uniting the brightest minds in technology, innovation, and sustainability to forge solutions that will drive the regional economy forward.

Co-hosted by the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs, Republic of Indonesia, Minister Airlangga Hartarto delivered the keynote address. ‘Indonesia and ASEAN eagerly anticipate the forthcoming inauguration of the Digital Innovation and Sustainable Economy Center (DISC) which will serve as a virtual and physical platform for policymakers, businesses, and academic professionals to transform the economy to digitally driven sustainable growth across the region’

‘The launch of DISC marks a pivotal juncture in ASEAN’s journey towards a digitally empowered future,’ stated Prof Tetsuya Watanabe, President of ERIA. ‘We are committed to fostering collaboration and innovation that will pave the way for a prosperous and sustainable ASEAN.’

Our priorities are:

  1. DIGITAL TRADE: using technology to bolster digital goods and services, Global Value Chains, and e-commerce
  2. DATA GOVERNANCE: developing unified rules and cybersecurity measures
  3. INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP: empowering small and inclusive businesses and startups through technology and innovation

At the heart of DISC’s mission lies a commitment to catalyse digital innovation and foster a sustainable economy across ASEAN and East Asia. ‘Enhancing digital innovations can lead to dematerialization, decarbonization, and bring more equity.  But to ensure digitalization drives a sustainability transformation, ASEAN member states need to work on governing principles and new forms of Private Public Partnerships’ stated Dr Anbumozhi Venkatachalam, ERIA Director of Research Strategy and Innovation. ‘DISC serves as platform for change to help the region on the two transformation journeys in a synergistic way.’

By facilitating collaboration, knowledge sharing, and transformative initiatives, DISC empowers businesses, policymakers, academics, and organizations to harness the power of digital technologies for sustainable economic growth, social development, and environmental stewardship. Dr Lili Yan Ing, ERIA Lead Advisor Southeast Asia Region puts it this way: ‘We are way too far long to be ignorant about two main issues in development: Climate change and Inequality. Digitalization is one way to solve those two issues, if we manage the development of digitalization and resources well.’

Digitalization has significantly improved the people-to-people connections. With digital tools, people thousands of miles apart can share their ideas and collaborate as efficiently as those sitting next to each other. ‘Using Indonesia’s manufacturing survey data, ERIA’s research finds that the adoption of automatic machines is associated with an increase of 49% on firm productivity’ added Dr Ing.

DISC will empower individuals and small businesses by providing them with unprecedented access to information, resources, and opportunities, enabling them to connect, learn, innovate, and participate in the global economy like never before.

‘The development of digitalization, like that of any other technologies, can drive social progress only when they can empower human productivity’ said Dr Lurong Chen, ERIA Senior Economist.  ‘An open, trustworthy, and democratic cyberspace helps people acquire knowledge and foster human development.’

DISC operates under four pivotal goals:

  1. Foster Public-Private Dialogue: DISC provides a platform for constructive public-private dialogue, aiming to facilitate the development of unified rules within the region, including common data platforms and legal systems that ensure the free flow of data and cybersecurity.
  2. Catalyse Regional Open Innovation: As a hub for regional open innovation, DISC unites diverse stakeholders virtually and physically, including young entrepreneurs, investors, businesses, academia, and policymakers. Through collaboration, DISC accelerates digital technology-driven sustainable economies and businesses while identifying a shared policy agenda.
  3. Nurture Technologically-Savvy Talent: DISC collaborates closely with regional universities, research institutes, and businesses to nurture a pool of technologically-savvy and business-oriented young talent. The Centre serves as a training platform for industries, offering insights on new business models, tools, and case studies, empowering industries to embrace digitalization and sustainability.
  4. Provide Practical Policy Proposals: DISC’s policy proposals are grounded in perspectives from the private sector, generating actionable recommendations that address the region’s challenges and opportunities.

The launch of DISC represents a landmark moment in the region’s digital evolution. By combining digital innovation with sustainable economic strategies, DISC is poised to accelerate ASEAN’s integration into the global digital landscape.

Download Presentation Slides

Additional Quotes from Dr Lili Yan Ing, ERIA Lead Advisor Southeast Asia Region

‘It took 75 years for the telephone to reach 100 million users, but it took only two months for ChatGPT to reach the same milestone. Digital transformation is not a choice of weather we want to have it or not, we have to embrace it and allocate enough resources (including human resources) to regulate and manage and to ensure they are useful for human lives.’

‘Digital Transformation will change not only the way we work, but also the way we live. ASEAN has developed a number of frameworks and work programs on digitalization, yet not a comprehensive one. ASEAN should envision a framework on ASEAN Digital Community 2045 that covers ASEAN’s three main pillars of Security-Political, Economic, and Socio-Cultural.’

‘The ASEAN Digital Community should be based on four key elements: Data Governance, Value Added, Digital Connectivity, and Digital Inclusivity.’

For more information about ERIA and the Digital Innovation and Sustainable Economy Centre (DISC), please visit

Related Facts and Figures

Digital Economy and Innovation:

  1. Internet Penetration: As of 2021, Southeast Asia’s internet penetration reached approximately 53%, with over 400 million internet users, showcasing the rapid growth of digital connectivity. This number is expected to grow to 600 million by 2025. Source: Google, Temasek, & Bain e-Conomy SEA, e_conomy_sea_2022_report (
  2. The digital economy in ASEAN is expected to grow to USD 330 billion GMV by 2025. Given that the Southeast Asia region consider the aspects of sustainability in its growth, the Southeast Asia digital economy could potentially grow to USD 1 trillion GMV by 2030. Source: Google, Temasek, & Bain e-Conomy SEA, e_conomy_sea_2022_report (
  3. Digital Infrastructure: ASEAN countries have invested over US$100 billion in digital infrastructure in the past five years. Source: Google, Temasek, & Bain e-Conomy SEA, e_conomy_sea_2019_report (
  4. Integrated digital transformation in public services: Pioneered by Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, the integration of digital transformation into public services holds the potential to greatly enhance governmental service quality and efficiency. ASEAN is moving towards establishing benchmark recommendations for digital transformation on internal government functions with the aim of improving administrative productivity. Source: ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025
  5. Digital trade: ASEAN’s role in global digital trade has substantially increased over the past two decades. ASEAN’s exports of ICT services have jumped by almost eight-fold, from $4 billion in 2005 to $31 billion by 2021. Similarly, ASEAN’s exports of digitally delivered services have soared from $36 billion in 2005 to as high as $212 billion in 2021, contributing 64% to ASEAN’s total services exports and about 6% of total world trade in services in 2021. Source: UNCTAD

Sustainable Economy:

  1. Green Finance: ASEAN nations are increasingly exploring green finance mechanisms through the development of the new ASEAN Taxonomy for Sustanable Finance. Source: Media Statement – ASEAN Taxonomy Board

Additional Information:

  1. ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA): aims to deepen existing digital economy cooperation and ensure the interoperability of digital economy systems. To be defined by 2023 and negotiated by 2025. Source: ASEAN
  2. Digital public infrastructure (DPI) refers to a transformative process in social infrastructure provision that connects economic places and players through ubiquitous digital technologies(x). DPI is a broad notion that does not only engage digital innovations but also touch upon intangible process that affect how digital innovations are governed for certain purpose, such as catalizing SDG progress. Source: Redirecting Digital Public Infrastructure Innovations for Deep Sustainability Transformation,” T20 Task Force 2
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