Last two years were difficult. The developments have renewed energy in how people, businesses, and organizations should adapt to the digital age.
As one of the world's most populated and diversified regions, Asia-Pacific will be a fast-growing digital leader. Two-thirds of the world's population would earn a $1.7 trillion economic benefit. McKinsey notes that COVID-19 has sped up digital transformation internationally and in Asia-Pacific.
Many countries have digitization efforts to catch up with this trend. Singapore released Smart Nation 2025, Indonesia and Malaysia launched Go Digital strategies, Bangladesh released Digital Bangladesh, and Thailand declared its aim to become an ASEAN Digital Hub.
The future Asia-Pacific will need a digital economy backed by top ICT solutions and an open, green industry ecosystem to foster innovation. We must also address equality issues to level the playing field.
1. Develop digital ICT infrastructure
ICT has accelerated post-pandemic economic recovery. Digital frontiers rely on connectivity and computers. Enterprises seek to the cloud, connectivity, and AI to maximize their businesses as connection bridges the digital divide and creates new education and employment prospects.
The region's digital preparedness varies. China is entering data and information dividend, and Southeast Asia is in the apex of demographic dividend. China's 5G penetration rate is above 40% and the 100+Mbps fibre home pass rate is over 90%. In several SEA countries, 5G use has just begun. In SEA, 4G mobile coverage is just above 50% and fiber broadband reaches one-third of homes. Less than 20% of SEA companies use the cloud, leaving room for data monetization and industry modernization.
5G technology is transforming critical industries. Siriraj Hospital, the largest state hospital in Thailand, launched the first 5G smart hospital in the ASEAN region with smart logistics, 5G ambulance, and smart inventory management (see photo below). The 5G smart hospital project would be a new model for modern medical facilities, says Mahidol University's Professor Dr. Prasit Watanapa. 5G ensures seamless patient data flow and telemedicine device operation.
Digital infrastructure is vital in rural places with limited 5G coverage. The Bangladesh government has made considerable efforts and progress in deploying network across over 2,600 townships, representing for 60% of the country's total townships and enabling e-government and finance.
In "the land of spices," Malaysia, HEXA Food trained a chilli identification model using Cloud ModelArts. Atlas 500's image recognition properly recognizes chilli quality. AI-powered sorting minimizes errors and doubles efficiency.
2. Create a green ecosphere
Every country, business, and individual has recently confronted the same question: how to survive and thrive in an uncertain environment? Digitalization and decarbonization will create new business forms, production partnerships, and value distribution networks. Industry needs a healthier, greener ecosystem.
A digital Asia-Pacific requires an open and collaborative ICT ecosystem. These ecosystems will incorporate government, partners, operators, and users to alter sectors. Singapore's open lab is an example. All firms, academics, and government organizations can use the facility to investigate cutting-edge robotic solutions, digital twins, and AI development kits.
Second, digital power technology will be vital for carbon neutrality and better energy digitization. Over 1,200 convenience shops in Thailand have smart PV roofing. This will minimize CO2 emissions by 1,300 tons annually. By integrating AI and cloud in PV for optimal power generation, the solar power plant becomes extremely efficient, safe, and reliable, laying the groundwork for solar to become the main energy source.
3. Chart an inclusive, sustainable course
Half the globe lacks internet access. According to the APNIC Foundation, Asia-Internet Pacific's adoption rate is 48.4%. By 2023, this is expected to reach 72% (3.1 billion users), leaving a quarter of the region's population offline.
People can't be empowered by technology if they don't know how to use it. Mobile payments, government services, digital education, and healthcare should aid underserved areas, particularly women, girls, and elderly generations.
The ability to learn from anywhere has democratized education resources. In the Philippines, PLDT-Smart Foundation (PSF) promoted School-in-a-Bag. Each backpack contains a laptop, 20 tablets, and a Smart LTE pocket Wi-Fi kit. It boosted student learning, lesson absorption, and teaching methodologies.
Technology is a leveler. It may provide education, healthcare, and jobs worldwide. It will transform business and industry and assist manage global resources for a green future.
The digital economy in Asia-Pacific offers social recovery and a resilient future. It facilitates cross-country public-private industrial partnerships. As we approach a digital future, we must seek balance between the actual and digital worlds.
By Lin Baifeng, Huawei APAC President