27 February 2017 | 04:15 pm GMT +7
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      Where to invest?

      E-ASEAN
      Connecting to grow

      A wealth of opportunities awaits investors participating in ASEAN’s information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives as demand for more ICT-driven products exponentially increase and ASEAN leaders’ commitment to ICT strengthens.

      Recognizing the role of ICT in transforming the 10 ASEAN economies into a single market and production base, ASEAN agreed on an e-ASEAN Framework Agreement to create digital opportunities and enhance competitiveness. It is working on the establishment of an ASEAN Broadband Corridor which focuses on developing the “next generation infrastructure” and set the minimum standards and quality of broadband connectivity in the region.

      Individually, ASEAN countries are as committed to modernize their respective telecoms and information networks. Brunei focuses in making government employees IT-skilled while Malaysia entices more foreign investors as it privatizes the telecoms industry. Thailand prioritizes its National Broadband Network Policy which seeks to have 80 percent of Thai citizens covered by broadband network by 2015. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Nusantura Super Highway hopes to bring broadband to more provinces through more than 30,000 kilometres of undersea fibre optic network cable and over 21,000 kilometres of above ground cable.

      A digital and mobile region

      A PWC paper shows there is more than 100% mobile penetration rate in most Southeast Asian countries including Viet Nam, Indonesia, and the Philippines which each have a subscriber base of over 100 million. Overall, mobile phone density is estimated by the ASEAN Secretariat at 967 per 1000 population.

      Many of the current mobile phone users form part of the ‘Mobile First’ or ‘Mobile Only’ users for whom mobiles become more accessible and serve as perfect substitutes for landlines and fixed line internet. In the Philippines, fixed line, internet and broadband penetration rate is no less than 10% each compared to mobile phone penetration which stands at more than 100%. Indonesia’s landscape is the same with mobile penetration at 126% and broadband penetration at 5%.

      Smart phones continue to rise and contribute to 66% of the mobile phone pie. Android, whose devices range from budget phones to mid- to high-end phones, gets 49% of the smartphone sales in ASEAN in 2012.

      Nowhere saturation level’

      While ASEAN becomes increasingly wired through mobile phones, tablets, social media, and various gadgets, e-ASEAN is still nowhere saturation levels. In Viet Nam, mobile penetration has been confined in urban areas which only represent 1/3 of the country’s total population. Cambodia’s internet subscription is only at 31 per 1000 persons while Myanmar is hoping to achieve 50% wireless accessibility only by 2015.

      Potentials for mobile commerce are only becoming greater. Developers and companies are tasked to create the right recipe in order to make m-Commerce trusted by consumers. Optimism is high that more consumers will be ready to transact, purchase, and spend through mobile devices in the near future. A Mastercard’s study shows Singapore is the most mobile payment-ready country in ASEAN followed by the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand.

      ICT for ASEAN

      ASEAN is at its most interesting mobile and internet innovation phase. Foreign ventures from South and East Asia as well as resource-rich local companies scramble to maximize market opportunities and benefit from the region’s 600 million people, majority of whom are young and tech-savvy.

      Communication service providers partner with non-traditional players to come up with new business models and innovate the way they do business. Bundling of services to help consumer maximize offerings is becoming a norm. Mobile apps continue to rise and product launches promising users convenience, entertainment, or increased connectivity seem endless.

      With the tremendous innovation in mobiles and internet, ASEAN is confident that investors see the viability of the region as a market for ICT businesses.

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