ERIA President: ASEAN Should Focus on Digital Tech for Supply Chain Resilience

The global economic landscape has been evolving at a very rapid pace, with the world seemingly irreversibly transformed by the pandemic and moving towards a new norm. ASEAN businesses are looking for clear pathways going forward, and regional policymakers are ready to support the transition to the post-pandemic circumstances.

ERIA’s President, Prof Hidetoshi Nishimura delivered remarks at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) 2021, stating that to remain relevant and effective, ASEAN should quickly adapt to these developments and trends by being agile, flexible, creative, and staying open to new conversations, while remaining focused in achieving its goals.

‘ERIA in supporting ASEAN, has conducted extensive policy research and analysis for ASEAN and East Asia Summit, on key regional economic issues and found that major trends pushed by Covid-19 pandemic include restructuring and diversification of global and regional value chains, and hence, a need to refocus on supply chain resilience empowered by digital technologies and new business models,’ said Prof Nishimura during the Panel Discussion on Digital ASEAN.

Moreover, Prof Nishimura stated that the pandemic has provided the extra driving force for e-commerce growth and the shift towards greater use of online facilities such as e-commerce, communication technology and e-health care. The pandemic accelerated the demand for online activities, which encouraged further investment in digital-related businesses.

‘In advancing digital ASEAN, companies should re-strategise their retail strategies by adopting digital technology, with the reconfiguration of supply chains to increase resilience, increasing the adoption of digital tools and real-time data, and maximising utilisation of e-commerce platforms. This will address the issues for inclusiveness particularly for MSMEs, narrowing the digital divide in terms of gaps and infrastructure and could contribute towards the social dimension by ensuring sustainable food supply chains and e-health systems.’

According to Prof Nishimura, to facilitate ASEAN businesses’ transformation, there has to be a highly coordinated region-wide cooperation in ICT development and digital trade facilitation supported by the markets and business councils. With this, ASEAN businesses could remain resilient and thrive even during this pandemic, and therefore, attract more trade and investment into the region.

The panel discussion was opened by a keynote address by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, The Hon. Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob. The panel discussion featured the Vice-Chair of Global Investment Banking CIBC and former Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry of Canada, Mr Navdeep Bains; Vice President Southeast Asia and Emerging Markets of Facebook, Mr Benjamin Joe; Managing Director of Brunei Gas Carriers, Mr Pengiran Shamhary bin PDP Hj Mustapha; and President & Managing Director of SAP Southeast Asia, Ms Verena Siow. Mr Steve Lai, News Anchor at Channel News Asia (CNA), moderated the discussion.

In the Q&A session, Prof Nishimura highlighted the importance of Investment in data to support digital transformation, particularly through the ‘Digital PPP’ – public-private partnership in investment in data and digitalization for better rule-settings in Asia. Furthermore, he stated that data governance will be a foremost challenge in connecting ASEAN digitally. There is also an urgent need for ASEAN to enhance regional collaboration in cybersecurity.

In closing, he emphasised three messages for ASEAN: first, establish ASEAN’s new covid-resistant and digitalised supply chain; second, develop 3Rs – robust, responsive, and resilient risk management capability, holistically; and third, the first two initiatives should be technology-led, leveraging platforms for growth.

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