Photo credit: CAIO VIA PEXELS

COVID-19 is speeding up digitalisation in ASEAN

The webinar tackled issues on digitalisation in ASEAN and what youths can do to embrace it.

Phoon Jia Hui

Jack of all trades, master of drinking boba milk tea.

Published: 16 November 2020, 6:23 PM

COVID-19 has changed the way we go about our daily lives and it has sped up the process of digitalisation.  

Some Singaporean youths attended a webinar, COVID-19 and Digitisation, on Nov 10 to know more about digitalisation in ASEAN and what it means for them.        

This is the second in the Asia-Ready Webinar series organised by the National Youth Council (NYC) and Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA).

Here are some takeaways from the hour-long session:

1. Youths should constantly look to upskill themselves

Mr Ho Suu Wei, director of government relations at PayPal in Southeast Asia, said youths should not be concerned about human jobs being replaced by technology. Instead, they should look at it as an opportunity. 

“There is so much to learn about technology and you can venture further into things like mobile commerce or mobile app development for example,” he said.   

Ho also pointed out that youths should leverage on internships or job opportunities in ASEAN and other countries in the region to build up their experience. 

At the same time, he encouraged youths to learn about cultures in other countries, something he believed will put them in good stead.


Youths participated in several polls as part of the webinar. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL

2. ASEAN is in a great position to adopt e-commerce and digital payments

With a huge and young population, Mr Ho felt that ASEAN’s key strength lies in its demographic and the fact that people are open to new things. As a result, the digital landscape tends to be far more positive and moves rapidly. 

However, he added that ASEAN should continue to ensure the legal and regulatory framework fosters e-commerce and digital payment. 

Mr Ho cited developing countries like Laos and Cambodia as examples, where regulatory regime hinders the developments and potentially makes it tough for cross-border transactions and payments.


About 800 youths attended the webinar session. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL

3. Companies have to transform their business models fast by embracing digital technology

To remain relevant in an ever-changing digital world, Mr Ho warned that businesses have to jump on the online e-commerce bandwagon as soon as possible or risk finding themselves in trouble. 

While shops locations were business differentiators in the past, considerations have changed with the emergence of e-commerce and social media. 

“With the rapid rise in digital payments, you no longer need to pay a crazy amount for rental. Instead, you basically need to attract eyeballs to your site or make it easier for people to find you online,” said Mr Ho.

Also noting that the effects of COVID-19 will be far-reaching and long-lasting, he mentioned that the world is one’s oyster if they are familiar with online marketing, distribution and logistics.


Mr Ho Suu Wei answering questions posed by youths attending the webinar. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL


During the Q&A session, one attendee asked if it’s a ‘crazy’ idea to start an online business in this time and age. Noting that even traditional brick and mortar businesses have pivoted to doing business online, Mr Ho strongly encouraged youths to consider doing it if they were keen.  

Another questioned if culture plays a part in the acceptance of digitalisation. Citing Cambodia again as an example, Mr Ho insisted it doesn’t. 

Based on his experience with youths in the region, the fact that ASEAN youths are fairly open to technology and the availability of smartphones these days means many mindsets have changed as a result. 

“Some Cambodian youths are far more comfortable to go online these days and you can actually find them on social media platforms like Instagram, for instance,” Mr Ho shared. 

It will also be beneficial for youths to take a trip to developing countries in the region to witness the effects of digitalisation for themselves post-COVID-19, Mr Ho added. 

“I will encourage you to make a trip to countries like Cambodia or Myanmar to really get to see how people live and work there. This will already give you an indication of the opportunities and challenges in ASEAN,” he said.

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