Asean economies urged to ensure equal access to tech

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    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is urging Southeast Asian countries to close the digital divide and promote equitable access to technology, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Masatsugu Asakawa, ADB president, in his keynote address at the multilateral agency’s first Southeast Asia Development Symposium, encouraged said countries to expand investments in digital infrastructure and ensure equitable access to technology as economies recover from the health crisis.

    “We must close the digital divide and expand existing investments in digital infrastructure by building more and higher quality mobile broadband infrastructure and ensuring affordable internet access and coverage,” Asakawa said.

    “These steps can also enhance access to basic social services such as health and education and access to financial services. These investments will better equip countries to address the worsening income inequality and disparities in opportunities brought about by the pandemic,” he added.

    In his keynote address, Asakawa specifically highlighted five key policy areas that can support developing economies in Southeast Asia as they return to a path of sustainable growth.

    First is to address regional disparities and ensure more equitable access to technology, including an expansion of investments in digital infrastructure to close the “digital divide” while addressing cyber security.

    Second, facilitate a green and resilient recovery by promoting investments that drive economic activity toward low-carbon and resilient practices.

    Third, strengthen regional co-operation and integration by improving cross-border digital connectivity, e-customs systems, and electronic cargo tracking systems.

    Fourth, deepen institutional capacity for mobilizing domestic resources to finance public services, while ensuring debt sustainability.

    And lastly, incubate, develop and congregate small and medium-sized enterprises with entrepreneurship and technology, supported by an aggregated financial, academic and business ecosystem to help set the stage for tech-based growth. (A. Celis)