Leaders of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members gathered here on Wednesday for the 2018 World Economic Forum on ASEAN, stressing the importance of fully tapping the Fourth Industrial Revolution for socioeconomic development. “Digitalization has become a new growth catalyst,” Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said, adding that the technological frontier will create many positive changes. To tap great potential of the Fourth industrial revolution and minimize its potential negative impact, the Cambodian Prime Minister proposed ASEAN countries enhance quality of education and training, sharpen skills of labourers and entrepreneurs, seek innovations, introduce new business models, and improve hard and soft infrastructure, especially their regional connectivity capabilities, Xinhua reported.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said people should not be afraid of having smaller incomes or losing jobs due to automation, because the revolution will help increase productivity and efficiency, lower production cost of goods and services, and utilize both natural and human resources more effectively. “As our economies develop, they are driven increasingly not by natural resources, which are limited, but human talent, which is unlimited,” Widodo said.
Meanwhile, Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith proposed developing the ASEAN into a region of innovation with high competitiveness, better information and communication technology infrastructure, quicker trade and investment facilitation, and narrower science and technology gaps among members. The ASEAN should also give stronger empowerment to private sector and entrepreneurs, Sisoulith said.
Highlighting recent technological achievements which have led to practical results in Myanmar such as sharp decline in prices of mobile phones and rapid growth of banking services, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said the revolution should be tapped to benefit people of all age and from all areas. “Our approach to the Fourth Industrial Revolution is based on our belief in the creativity, empathy and stewardship qualities of our people, especially the young,” she said.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said individual countries’ approaches to the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be linked with the construction and development of the ASEAN Community. Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong agreed that the ASEAN should be connected physically and digitally amid the revolution which helps fuel economic growth. Thailand has implemented a “Thailand 4.0” policy to shift its economic focus towards an innovation-driven economy, he noted.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also spoke highly of digital economy and new technology, proposing countries to intensify application of new technologies to share innovations and new values as well as to forge connectivity for sustainable development. Also on Wednesday, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prajin Juntong, Aung San Suu Kyi, Thongloun Sisoulith and Hun Sen attended another plenary session themed “A New Vision for the Mekong Region,” sharing their visions for the region in association with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The five leaders agreed that ASEAN members in general and Mekong countries in particular can no longer depend just on natural resources. They should embrace innovation, reform, creativity to connect the Mekong countries in a more dynamic way for sustainable development.