Digital ASEAN

ASEAN is the fastest growing Internet market in the world. With 125,000 new users coming onto the Internet every day, the ASEAN digital economy is projected to grow significantly, adding an estimated $1 trillion to regional GDP over the next ten years. But many significant roadblocks stand in the way of realizing this potential. ASEAN has laid out important policy measures and frameworks, including the AEC Blueprint 2025, Masterplan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, and the e-ASEAN Framework Agreement, to address these roadblocks. However, these ambitious goals will demand detailed research, visionary policy-making, and substantial buy-in from regional stakeholders.

Towards a regional digital economy

The World Economic Forum, as a neutral, impartial institution, and the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, is leading important initiatives at a global level to craft policies, protocols and frameworks for developing and governing a digital economy. Our aspiration is to contribute to building a digital ecosystem that is sustainable, inclusive, and trustworthy. We bring together key stakeholders to debate critical issues, catalyze ideas, and incubate projects and initiatives that can support a healthy and thriving digital world.

The “Digital ASEAN” initiative is our response to demand from the Forum’s regional partners in ASEAN, both public and private. The initiative aims to work on the issues that will underpin a regional digital economy in ASEAN so that the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be fully unlocked and become a force for regional economic inclusion.

Scope of work

The Digital ASEAN initiative comprises a portfolio of five workstreams centred on the following focus areas:

1.     Pan-ASEAN Data Policy: shaping a common regional data policy

2.     ASEAN Digital Skills: building a shared commitment to train digital skills for the ASEAN workforce

3.     ASEAN e-Payments: building a common ASEAN e-payment framework

4.     ASEAN Cybersecurity: nurturing cooperation and capacity building in ASEAN cybersecurity

Governance and working groups

Four task forces have been established, one for each of the five focus areas. Members of task forces represent a multi-stakeholder group from the private sector, ASEAN governments, international organizations, regional organizations, and academia.

Sitting above these task forces is a Board of Advisors, whose role is to guide and shape the portfolio of work. The Board of Advisors includes individuals who are ASEAN Ministers of Digital Economy, ICT, and Commerce, and business leaders. 


The ASEAN Digital Skills Task Force has built the ASEAN Digital Skills Vision 2020 pledge, aiming at hiring and/or training not only workers, but also the wider eco-system of consumers and users of digital services (such as SME traders), as well as digital regulators. The pledge form is now available online.

Basically, the pledge consists of the following specific commitments to be achieved by 2020:

1)    Train 20 million ASEAN SME workers;

2)    Raise US$2million in contributions to providing scholarships for ASEAN technology students;

3)    Hire directly 200,000 ASEAN digital workers;

4)    Engage 20,000 ASEAN citizens through “Digital Inspiration Days”

5)    Offer 2,000 internship opportunities for ASEAN university students;

6)    Train 200 ASEAN regulators; and

7)    Contribute to shaping the curricula at 20ASEAN universities.

While companies are welcomed to join the pledge in the months ahead, by 19 November 2018 a set of initial commitments has been made by “founding champions”: Cisco, Google, Grab, Microsoft, Lazada, SEA Group, and Tokopedia. With these initial commitments, by 2020 over eight million ASEAN SME workers will be trained, the Digital Inspiration Days opportunity will be available to 1,035,000 ASEAN citizens, 18,000 internship opportunities will be available for ASEAN university students, etc. The news about the pledge by these founding champions was very well received in the media, from international media (Washington Post, Yahoo News, Business Insider), to Asia based regional media (the ASEAN Post, South China Morning Post, Khmer Times, Philippines Inquirer), to national media from Thailand (The Nation, Bangkok Post, etc