Region offers huge potential for global online service providers.
With a potential customer base of more than 650m people, the ASEAN region holds great promise for global digital platform providers as online access and incomes steadily rise in the region. Mobile-broadband subscriptions and internet usage now reach more than half of the population, and as more people come online—whether via computer or mobile channels—the role played in the economy by digital platform providers will increase. Bain, a US-based consultancy firm, estimates that US\$ 1 trillion could be added to ASEAN’s GDP by 2025 if the digital economy can thrive and avoid barriers.
Governments within ASEAN are increasingly implementing strategies to reap the benefits of the internet economy and cross-border data flows. Adoption of new technologies is changing the way business is conducted, with countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam on course to run digitized economies by 2025. Indonesia, with 270 million people has the world’s fourth largest population and is rapidly becoming a digital nation.
The region is an attractive destination for digital platform providers that offer localised versions of their services. At the same time, the region is increasingly producing its own set of innovative internet companies that aspire to enter new markets. However, varying policy and regulatory approaches across ASEAN create obstacles for companies wishing to operate across the region’s online space, impeding the efficiency gains that might be associated with greater scale. Data localisation and content restrictions are increasingly common across the region, hampering digital platforms and service providers—particularly international ones.
Sumit Dutta is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ASEAN Business Partners. Prior to this, Sumit spent 26 years working for HSBC, one of the biggest banks in the world, in countries including Indonesia, Vietnam, USA, Hongkong and India.
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