Let’s take a look at ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations, the world’s 6th largest economic group and almost a global secret. It includes some of the fastest growing and youngest countries in the world today, is bursting with natural resources and with a median age of 28.9 years, is a rainbow of opportunity in today’s somewhat gloomy world. If that isn’t enough, ASEAN is forecast to become the world’s largest single market by 2030 so if you don’t know it, then read on!

At a recent summit meeting the ten ASEAN nations agreed to collaborate on regional payment systems, healthcare services and – in pursuit of sustainability – a regional electric vehicle ecosystem. (Imagine driving a spanking new electric car across the border only to find you can’t plug it in…. and unlike a laptop cannot exactly hand carry it home).

The underlying importance of digital transformation in all of these is obvious and article 60 of the Final Chairman’s Statement speaks of an ASEAN Digital Economic Community 2045.

While 2045 seems ages away, ASEAN’s governments have their work cut out to facilitate collaboration on other wide-ranging issues such as cross-border data flows, personal data protection, AI governance, and digital ID systems. Meanwhile across the region, consumers and private sector service providers like telcos, online retailers and the banking and healthcare industries will continue to create a vibrant digital economy powered by the expectations of a young, tech-savvy population. Add all these together and it is easy to see this is the land of opportunity to build the underlying infrastructure and all the supporting services and resources.

ASEAN’s population are largely digital natives. Internet penetration, smartphone ownership and e-commerce transactions show enthusiastic adoption of the online economy. Obviously some member countries are further ahead in digital readiness than others– think Singapore’s one island city-state and then Indonesia and the Philippines with over 17,000 and  7,600 islands respectively – but the digital aspirations of ASEAN’s citizens are aligned throughout. They are social media enthusiasts with collectively more Facebook users than anywhere in the world, and Jakarta is the global Twitter capital. Home grown ride-hailing services like Grab and Gojek beat Uber to successful market domination and national and regional online marketplaces are winning hearts and clients while online gaming is a multi-billion dollar business.

ASEAN – a hot bed of opportunity

In short, ASEAN is a hot-bed of opportunity for established international providers of digital solutions in every imaginable area; digital healthcare, next-gen energy management and storage, education (always a priority in Asia), e-government, blockchain applications and with an estimated 25% of the population still unbanked, it is a bonanza for the financial services sector. Mobile apps are empowering unbanked citizens to leapfrog traditional retail banking and go straight to digital finance and of course, underpinning all of this is the need for cybersecurity protection.

ASEAN traditionally focused on agriculture and natural resources, including rubber, palm oil and fossil fuel energy while the tropical climate enabled a huge tourism industry; think Bali, Boracay and Phuket. Manufacturing, particularly textiles and industrial components, has become a significant sector of many ASEAN economies and looking to the future, ASEAN will continue to supplement or replace China as a supplier of goods to the West. Alongside this the supply chain industry has expanded to match and Singapore has the second biggest and busiest port in the world. Smart manufacturing, smart logistics and integrated and sophisticated data-driven supply chains are not only opportunities for new players but critical elements to ensure a flourishing future for these industries.

ASEAN continues to deliver one of the most exciting, forward-looking markets in the world and headquartered out of Singapore, Priority lives Asia. Our local knowledge, domain expertise and proprietary methodology have been helping technology companies and professional services leaders build their brands in our region for more than 35 years. If you or your colleagues want to know more about communications across South East Asia then get in touch and we will share more details.