Digital-native policies vital for economic recovery in APAC

By Sunny Park, General Counsel, Microsoft Asia Pacific

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that no organization is 100% resilient, but those fortified with digital capabilities are more resilient than those that are not. 

In research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, eight out of ten government leaders noted that increased investments in digital technology and digital capabilities fortified their resilience and acted as strong drivers for economic recovery and development.  

 Continuous volatility is a gentler way of describing the deeply uncomfortable forces that are eroding some of our most basic core beliefs about truth, reality and stability. More and more, it is becoming obvious that trust and resilience are foundational to the socioeconomic viability of today’s digital nation-state,” said Jezamin Abdul Razak, head of government insights, International Data Corporation (IDC) Asia Pacific. 

As more businesses, enterprises and communities pursue digitalization, they will need strong policies, skilling and infrastructure support to enable them to make the leap.  

We see six crisis crucibles shaping our world today: growing inequality, skills mismatch, climate change, instant social and economic outcomes, tectonic regulatory shifts and the adoption of cloud, data and AI. 

Perhaps the biggest contribution that government agencies can make to long-term societal improvement is developing skills and talent. We’re proud to share that Microsoft has trained more than 2.3 million people in APAC, through multiple digital skilling initiatives, including working with customers like Grab to bridge the digital divide for drivers and their families. We’re also making a commitment to skill one million people in Malaysia and 24 million in Indonesia as part of our investment into the region. 

We recognize the need for alliances for digital-native policies. Which is why we’ve created a platform for governments, industry partners and stakeholders to share experiences, co-develop policy recommendations and strengthen the region’s resilience together.  

 APAC Leaders Digital Alliance 

Microsoft and the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) launched the first APAC Leaders Digital Alliance. Public sector leaders from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam joined senior representatives from Microsoft, the World Bank, IDC, LKYSPP and the NUS School of Continuing and Lifelong Education (NUS SCALE) in a roundtable discussion.  

At Microsoft, we have a fundamental responsibility to help others succeed, because our success is built on the success of our customers and partners. Our goal is to help nations build strong, inclusive digital economies where everyone can experience the benefits of technology and participate in the creation of the new digital economy.  

We hope this platform and the discussions from the alliance will contribute to the development of policy recommendations for a holistic approach to digital governance.  

At the dialogue, Natasha Beschorner from the World Bank made recommendations about digital infrastructure, digital public platforms (including identification), digital financial services, digital business and digital skills. Referencing the World Bank’s 2021 Data for Better Lives report, she outlined a trust framework for safeguarding and enabling secure, trusted and efficient use of data for development. 

The discussions during the roundtable at the APAC Leaders Digital Alliance explored a growing consensus that data sharing and access will improve society, governance and the economy, resulting in higher GDP growth, innovation and trust. Equally, the participants acknowledged the critical role governments have in leading by example, by sharing their own data sets or demonstrating the benefits of data sharing. 

Attendees recognised that data agreements and technical standards drive collaboration, interoperability and usability, with policies created in the analogue era needing an upgrade to be able to address situations of today.  

Government agencies and participants agreed that once data can be accessed and shared across borders, the impact of data sharing could be significantly bigger and contribute to the regional innovation economy – and this increased cooperation and policy interoperability will enable greater shared benefits of digital trade across the region. 

IDC predicts that by 2024, governments will combine trusted data sharing and intelligent process automation to provide 25% of government services proactively. IDC tells us that over half of the world’s governments will design and implement policies to reinstate order, fairness and trust – especially around data – to foster innovation, economic resilience and socio-economic opportunity. 

Aligned to the discussions at the APAC Leaders Digital Alliance, we recognise that governments in the region are ramping up their efforts toward digital resilience:  

  • Indonesia: The government’s leadership in digitalising micro-enterprises and small local retailers (warungs) is an example of strengthening economic resilience and converting digital divides into digital dividends. This has been a long-term pursuit, and we saw it validated with Microsoft’s partnership with Bukalapak, one of Indonesia’s largest e-commerce and technology firms that serves more than 12 million micro, small and medium-sized businesses, as well as 7 million partners and more than 100 million customers. 
  • Malaysia: Using a collaborative approach with both the private sector and citizens, the government aims to establish greater trust, security and privacy by making data governance and stewardship principles non-negotiable factors when deciding on their digital framework for the next 10 years. It’s also the foundation for the construction of Malaysia’s healthcare system reform plan, as outlined in the 12th Malaysia Plan. 
  • Philippines: The Philippines has been collaborating with other ASEAN governments and regulatory organizations to develop new domestic policy and regulatory frameworks that allow data exchange. Certain sectors have already begun the road to a data-driven, data-informed and agile public service. Adopting the Open Finance Framework has helped promote data portability, interoperability and collaborative relationships between financial institutions and third-party providers with permission. 
  • Singapore: National and regional efforts offer enormous prospects for innovation. For example, Singapore has launched A.I. Verify – the world’s first AI Governance Testing Framework and Toolkit for companies that want to demonstrate responsible AI in an objective and verifiable manner.  
  • Vietnam: The government is prioritising digital infrastructure to support the digital economy, which is expected to account for 20% of Vietnam’s GDP by 2025. A critical element to advance the digital economy is to ensure Vietnam has a digitally skilled workforce, including government officials who can utilize digital technology to provide better citizen services and to leverage the insights from a vast amount of data. Economic growth is expected to accelerate to 5.5% in 2022, enabling Vietnam to achieve its ambition of becoming a high-income economy by 2045. (World Bank) 

Professor Danny Quah, Dean and Li Ka Shing professor in economics at LKYSPP-NUS, expressed the importance of this Alliance in advancing the region’s digital ambitions. “We greatly hope that the APAC Leaders Digital Alliance will be a robust platform for policymakers, academics and business leaders to strengthen our communications and collaborations, with the goal of making the formation and implementation of digital policies in the region more enlightened, productive, mutually trusted and far-sighted,” Quah said. 

Following this event, Microsoft and LKYSPP-NUS collaborated on a report which includes recommendations and insights gleaned from the policy dialogue to spur inclusive and resilient economic recovery across the region. 

We look forward to continuing the dialogue with current and new members of the APAC Leaders Digital Alliance to strengthen the region’s digital resilience together. 


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