The ASEAN ministers in charge of telecommunications today (August 28) agreed to take an  active leadership role in promoting and guiding the development and use of information and communications technology in the region.

The ministers were meeting for the second time in Manila, under the chairmanship of the Philippines’ Secretary of Transportation and Communications, Leandro R. Mendoza.

The ministers stressed the vital role of telecommunications in the integration of the regional economy, in attracting investments into the region, and in developing the economies of the ASEAN member-countries as well as the regional economy.

The ministers recalled the results of the ASEAN study on the readiness of ASEAN and its individual member-countries for the information age and agreed to cooperate in carrying out the recommendations of the study, including the development of the ASEAN Information Infrastructure, the use of ICT for the efficient delivery of government services, and the encouragement of a pro-competitive regulatory environment.

It will be recalled that ASEAN’s leaders, at their summit in November 2000, signed the e-ASEAN Framework Agreement, which placed ICT high in ASEAN’s priorities and charted the directions for the development and use of ICT in the region.

In response, ASEAN countries have been establishing bodies to handle ICT matters or creating new units in the telecommunications ministries for that purpose.

In taking a leadership role in ICT, the ministers asked their officials to study various mechanisms for strengthening ASEAN cooperation in ICT, including the establishment of an ASEAN ICT centre, making greater use of existing centres of excellence in the region, and strengthening the ICT unit in the ASEAN Secretariat.

The ministers agreed to engage China, Japan and the Republic of Korea in ICT cooperation both individually and in the ASEAN+3 framework and to study the possibility of a similar engagement with India.

Roberto R. Romulo, former Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines and chairman of the public-private e-ASEAN Task Force, briefed the meeting on what the task force had achieved in advising the ASEAN bodies, attracting private-sector participation in e-ASEAN, advocating the development and use of ICT in the region, and building ASEAN’s capacity for the information age.

At the end of their meeting, the ministers issued the Manila Declaration 2002 expressing their determination to develop ASEAN’s ICT human resources, involve the private sector in working out sustainable international charging arrangements for Internet services, set up an ASEAN network security coordinating council, and accelerate the ASEAN Information Infrastructure program.

The ministers decided to cooperate in combating the security threat to the Internet by encouraging the establishment of national computer emergency response teams in all ASEAN countries to facilitate the prevention, detection and resolution of security threats to computer networks and strengthen regional cooperation for this purpose.