Secretary-General of ASEAN
Euro-Southeast Asia Information and Communications Technology Forum
Singapore, 19 June 2006
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for this opportunity to address the Forum. I understand that this First Euro-Southeast Asia Information and Communications Technology Forum 2006 (EUSEA2006) is attended by more than 800 representatives from ASEAN and the European Union (EU). They include those from the ICT industry, researchers, regulators and policy-makers. They will probably exchange views, learn from each other and build a bigger network of contacts and institutions. Most importantly, they will help to expand the presence of ASEAN in Europe and Europe in ASEAN.
Let me briefly say something about the ASEAN-EU partnership. This relationship is about 30 years old. Through these decades, change is a constant. Among other things, both of us have grown bigger. ASEAN has ten member countries today while the EU has enlarged itself to cover 25 states. From the start with coal and steel and then a common market, the EU countries have transformed themselves into a political union. There is a free movement of goods, services and people within the EU territory.
ASEAN is still far from the EU model. We plan to put in place by 2020 the ASEAN Community based on three pillars, namely, the ASEAN Economic Community, the ASEAN Security Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. The AEC is envisioned to be a single market and a regional production base though there will not be a common currency. We are not having a common foreign policy and we are not a military alliance even though we have the ASC. This ASC is envisaged to bring ASEAN’s political and security cooperation to a higher plane to ensure the countries in Southeast Asia live in peace with one another and with the world at large.
While ASEAN does not aspire to become a political union like the EU, the EU’s experiences are highly relevant to ASEAN. For example, the ten member countries of ASEAN have different stages of economic development and their economic structures are not the same. The building of capacity and capability in the less advanced ASEAN member countries is critically important. Human resource development is a major and urgent concern. ASEAN can learn from the EU how such issues are tackled even as ASEAN embarks on various strategies, like trade and investment liberalisation, to integrate the ten economies of the region. The EU has also provided significant technical expertise and resources to ASEAN. The ASEAN-EU Programme for Regional Integration Support (APRIS) is an excellent example of the technical assistance offered by the EU to ASEAN member countries.
ASEAN-EU Cooperation in ICT
Globalisation and technology are continuously impinging on the ASEAN-EU partnership. Increasingly, how we harness technology and ride on the global developments will determine how much value-added we can further derive from the ASEAN-EU ties built over the years. Sharing of knowledge and learning, trying out new and innovative ideas and seeking new synergy are the best way to advance the partnership.
In technological cooperation, the EU has been proactive and committed to work with ASEAN, particularly in the ICT sector. For example, the 5th Meeting of the ASEAN-EC Informal Coordinating Mechanism (ICM) in Bali on 22-23 June 2005 agreed on information society as one of the three sectoral areas under the Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (READI) to facilitate consultation and dialogue on topics of common interest in the non-trade related areas. As we share and learn from each other, it is important to focus on three questions, that is:
First, how can ASEAN and the EU collaborate to put in place an enabling environment for the ICT culture to grow and flourish in Southeast Asia?
Second, how can ASEAN and the EU design a greater role for the private sector to help increase digital inclusion, regulate the ICT business, develop human capacity and physical infrastructure, ensure security of data and information networks, and advance technological research and applications?
Third, how can ASEAN and the EU cooperate to influence global development of ICT and its consequences, and the advent of the information society with all its attendant issues ?
For ASEAN, let me briefly describe what we are doing and how we see future cooperation in the ICT sector.
Enabling Environment for ICT
ASEAN Leaders recognise the importance of an enabling environment for the ICT sector. Among other things, such a conducive situation can cut short the ASEAN integration process as well as allow ASEAN to catch up with developed countries in terms of economic and technological development. In fact, they signed the e-ASEAN Initiative in the year 2000 and the e-ASEAN Integration Roadmap for 2004-2010 four years later (2004). They want to transform ASEAN into a dynamic modern market and society. Such measures are essential in raising ICT literacy and in giving greater access to ICT. Only then can more online applications and services be instituted in ASEAN member countries.
ASEAN sees the development of an advanced, integrated and accessible information infrastructure across ASEAN and Europe as mutually reinforcing the respective policy responses to globalisation and technology advancement. ASEAN is eager to progress on Next Generation Networks (NGN) and the migration from traditional PSTN to NGN, including dealing with related issues such as IPv6, VoIP, VPN and business cooperation in 3G mobile communication and broadband development. ASEAN is working on applicable technologies for rural and remote areas, and interconnectivity as well as legal frameworks within and among ASEAN member countries.
Concurrently, ASEAN cooperates with all concerned to heighten network and information security, increase countermeasure for cyber crime, and protect critical information infrastructure while ASEAN culture, heritage, value systems and national identities are preserved in the cyberspace. Cyber-crime is a threat which can erode public confidence in the use of online services and applications. It must be dealt with in a punitive and sustainable manner. Beyond security issues, ASEAN is also looking at open standards and open source software, and more tie-ups with interested countries and organisations to expand ICT awareness, education, research and development and training.
ASEAN believes ICT regulators everywhere share similar challenges and face similar issues, especially when it comes to cross-border economic, trade and investment activities. Therefore, ASEAN is keen to look into how ASEAN and the EU can work together to enhance the policy regime governing ICT. We note that the ICT sector in the EU is very dynamic and vibrant and it plays a key role in growth, employment, investment and innovation. While the ICT sector represents only about 5 percent of the EU’s GDP, it drives 25 percent of overall growth and 40 percent of labour productivity growth1. Issues such as how we can manage the Internet, how we can facilitate more growth of ICT companies/innovators in a fast-changing environment, and how we can optimise scarce reso
urces for public interest need to be address in a concerted manner.
In this context, more interactions between the ASEAN Telecommunications Regulators Council (ATRC) and the European Regulators Group (ERG) would be useful. They can have regular exchange of experiences on the complex regulatory challenges in standardization, technical assistance for ASEAN regulators, as well as clarification on regulatory and policy issues including multilateral aspects in the ICT sector.
Getting Private Sector to do more
The vital role of the private sector in national, regional and international development has been well articulated. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. ASEAN supports the creation and development of a focused and well-coordinated institutional arrangement among public authorities, industry and users to realise mutually-beneficial ICT initiatives for business and population at large. I understand that the public-private partnership (PPP) is neither an industry-led nor government-led initiative but a mechanism where all stakeholders can have their voices and contributions in all stages of the policy-making process as well as in implementation and evaluation. In this respect, the experiences of the EU in its PPP would be useful. At the least, ASEAN can cut short the learning curve and avoid some of the pitfalls.
Moving the Global Agenda
ASEAN and the EU share a common interest in the appropriate and effective handling and management of the Internet. This must be done in a multi-stakeholder environment with the full, inclusive and appropriate participation of all stakeholders (that is, government, private sector and civil society). I believe that this is a global consensus which was concluded in the World Summit on the Information Society held in Tunisia in November 2005. We would like to work with the EU in ongoing follow-up activities, for example a workshop or information-sharing forum, on the subject of “Internet Governance”. ASEAN is interested in working with the EU on a possible joint position in any discussion on the enhanced cooperation model in this field. The secure and stable functioning of the technical aspects of the Internet, including the domain name system (DNS) and root server system is important. We note that the EU and its institutions have just celebrated a new Internet identity under the “.eu” domain name so that “Europe’s competitive knowledge society becomes very visible to the world on the Internet” . This development would result in a vast impact on the symbol and brand name of Europe. ASEAN would like to learn from the EU the essential aspects of implementing such an initiative.
ASEAN and the EU may explore several modalities such as government-to-government, industry-to-industry and government-to-industry partnerships for future cooperation. We need to strengthen our existing ICT working mechanism through ideas such as using the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Telecommunications (TELSOM), the ATRC, and the EC Directorate-General on Information Society and Media. Also, the ASEAN-EU ICT PPP framework would be worth considering, especially in the mobilisation of joint efforts around our common public and private programmes and agendas. ASEAN hopes to see more EU partners (either public or private institutions) involving themselves on the possibility of shortening the time frame for the liberalisation of the ICT/e-ASEAN sector in ASEAN.
To sum up, we need more awareness, more official mechanisms, more dialogues and consultations to forge a greater partnership in ASEAN-EU ICT cooperation. In doing so, let us be guided by the ASEAN Way which is to move step by step, in an evolutionary manner and at a pace comfortable to all. But there is a shared vision and ASEAN and the EU will score a win-win outcome. The Internet removes the geographical distance and time zones separating us. We are no longer in different countries and houses. We are in the same room, real time. If we do not discuss challenges and issues collectively, we are simply creating more difficulties for ourselves.
I would like to conclude my remarks by offering my sincere thanks to the EC Commissioner for Information Society and Media Mrs Viviane Reding, the Singapore Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports and concurrently Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Head of the EC Delegation in Singapore Ambassador Vassilis Bontosoglou, the sponsors, and all of you who have made this Forum possible. Let us develop this milestone event into a sustainable and trail-blazing collaboration between ASEAN and the EU.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Reaping the benefits of ICT Europe’s productivity challenge, The Economist 2004