Digital ASEAN

ASEAN is the fastest growing Internet market in the world. With 125,000 new users coming onto the Internet every day, the ASEAN digital economy is projected to grow significantly, adding an estimated $1 trillion to regional GDP over the next ten years. But many significant roadblocks stand in the way of realizing this potential. ASEAN has laid out important policy measures and frameworks, including the AEC Blueprint 2025, Masterplan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, and the e-ASEAN Framework Agreement, to address these roadblocks. However, these ambitious goals will demand detailed research, visionary policy-making, and substantial buy-in from regional stakeholders.

Towards a regional digital economy

The World Economic Forum, as a neutral, impartial institution, and the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, is leading important initiatives at a global level to craft policies, protocols and frameworks for developing and governing a digital economy. Our aspiration is to contribute to building a digital ecosystem that is sustainable, inclusive, and trustworthy. We bring together key stakeholders to debate critical issues, catalyze ideas, and incubate projects and initiatives that can support a healthy and thriving digital world.

The “Digital ASEAN” initiative is our response to demand from the Forum’s regional partners in ASEAN, both public and private. The initiative aims to work on the issues that will underpin a regional digital economy in ASEAN so that the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be fully unlocked and become a force for regional economic inclusion.

Scope of work

The Digital ASEAN initiative comprises a portfolio of four workstreams centred on the following focus areas:

  1. Pan-ASEAN Data Policy: shaping a common regional data policy

  2. ASEAN Digital Skills: building a shared commitment to train digital skills for the ASEAN workforce

  3. ASEAN e-Payments: building a common ASEAN e-payments framework

  4. ASEAN Cybersecurity: nurturing cooperation and capacity building in ASEAN cybersecurity

Governance and working groups

Four task forces have been established, one for each of the four focus areas. Each task force comprises a multi-stakeholder group from the private sector, ASEAN governments, international organizations, regional organizations, and academia.

Sitting above these task forces is a Board of Advisors, whose role is to guide and shape the portfolio of work. The Board of Advisors includes individuals who are ASEAN Ministers of Digital Economy, ICT, and Commerce, and business leaders. 


Each of the four workstreams has achieved significant success. In the area of digital skills, we have launched the ASEAN Digital Skills Vision 2020 programme, which is pioneering a collective pledge among companies and organisations to train workers, digital regulators and the wider consumer public.

The pledge consists of a number of specific commitments to be achieved by 2020:

  1. Train 20 million workers at ASEAN SMEs;

  2. Raise US$2 million in contributions for scholarships for ASEAN technology students;

  3. Hire directly 200,000 ASEAN digital workers;

  4. Engage 20,000 ASEAN citizens through “Digital Inspiration Days”;

  5. Offer 2,000 internship opportunities for ASEAN university students;

  6. Train 200 ASEAN regulators;

  7. Contribute to shaping the curricula at 20 ASEAN universities; and

  8. Train 40 million ASEAN individual citizens in digital literacy and online safety.

Launched on 19 November 2018 in Bangkok, the ASEAN Digital Skills Vision 2020 pledge programme has now received commitments from 23 organizations, fulfilling and in some cases exceeding the targets. The 23 organizations are: BigPay; Certiport, a Pearson VUE Business; Cisco; Dell Technologies Malaysia, eYOuth; Facebook; FPT Corporation; General Assembly; Golden Gate Ventures; Google; Gow; Grab; ICDL; Lazada; LinkedIn; Microsoft; Netflix; P&G; Plan International; Sea; thyssenkrupp; Tokopedia; and VNG Corporation. Together, they have committed to train over 16 million people in ASEAN with digital skills by the end of 2020.

On e-Payments, we successfully set up an ASEAN e-Payments Coalition in March 2019, dedicated to supporting the development of an integrated and harmonised digital payment framework across ASEAN with the goal of supporting the growth of cross-border e-commerce. Coalition members come from a broad range of constituencies - banks, e-commerce companies, regulators and so on. Together, they have participated in a series of working sessions and developed a set of key recommendations on e-payments that have been presented to the ASEAN Working Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems (WC-PSS) to help shape the development of an ASEAN Payments Policy Framework. The coalition is now exploring setting up a regular and sustained process for input into the work of the WC-PSS.

On data policy, members of the task force have shown a strong commitment to shape and support the implementation of the ASEAN Framework on Digital Data Governance. Member organisations of the task force have shared their best practices on data classifications in a formal process of input with the body that is developing the framework on behalf of ASEAN governments. They are also taking part in a dialogue series on trade policy and cross-border data flows supported by the Forum’s Platform for International Trade and Investment.

On cybersecurity, members of the ASEAN Cybersecurity Task Force have explored cybersecurity intelligence sharing models and the types of interventions required to nurture cooperation and capacity building in ASEAN cybersecurity. They are now building a proposal on cybersecurity capacity building for submission to the ASEAN Secretariat.