The 3rd Meeting of the ASEAN Telecommunications and IT Ministers (TELMIN), held in September 2003, adopted the Singapore Declaration – an action agenda to harness technological advances in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to create digital opportunities for ASEAN and to enhance ASEAN’s overall competitiveness.

The TELMIN has taken over the technological aspects of the e-ASEAN work programme from the auspices of the ASEAN Economic Ministers. The Telecommunications Senior Officials Meeting (TELSOM) Working Groups are carrying out the four objectives of the e-ASEAN Framework Agreement, namely (a) to develop, strengthen and enhance the competitiveness of the ICT sector; (b) reduce the digital divide within and amongst ASEAN Member Countries; (c) promote cooperation between the public and private sectors; (d) develop ASEAN Information Infrastructure.

Efforts to establish the ASEAN Information Infrastructure continued with a view to promote interoperability, interconnectivity, security and integrity. A database of National Information Infrastructure profiles has been created to encourage competition, rapid deployment of new technology and ICT investment in the region. The Ministers of Telecommunications and IT decided that all ASEAN Member Countries develop and operationalise national Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) by 2005 in line with mutually agreed minimum performance criteria. A virtual forum for ASEAN cybersecurity is being formed to develop a common framework to coordinate exchange of information, establishment of standards and cooperation among enforcement agencies.

Intra-ASEAN trade and investment in ICT is being enhanced through identification and elimination of impediments, fostering pro-business policies on ICT trade and investment and establishing regulatory environments which are transparent, predictable, and non-discriminatory. The ICT products’ list and the tariff reduction schedule have been updated. Creation of a database of trade and investment policy and regulatory practices is under consideration.

Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have indicated their readiness to implement the first phase of the ASEAN Telecommunications Regulators
Council Mutual Recognition Arrangements (ATRC MRA) in 2003. Bilateral MRAs were carried out between Brunei and Singapore and between Indonesia and Singapore. ASEAN continued to develop the e-commerce legal infrastructure to promote trust and consumer confidence.

ASEAN is building a network of ICT skills competency centers/agencies to promote collaboration amongst these centers and agencies, including training of ASEAN SMEs to harness the benefits of ICT applications. ASEAN has developed a Digital Divide Database to promote understanding of the dimensions of the ASEAN digital divide, exchange information on Universal Service Obligation (USO) schemes and develop joint studies and projects.

An ASEAN-China Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Information and Communications Technology was signed in October 2003. Among the areas agreed include China’s commitment to utilize its domestic training bases to provide training for personnel of ASEAN Member Countries. ASEAN and China have agreed to cooperate in developing MRAs for ICT Skills Certification. Furthermore, China will assist in the construction and development of information infrastructure such as fixed/mobile communications networks, multimedia applications and Internet in ASEAN Member Countries.

ASEAN submitted a joint statement to the World Summit on the Information Society, held in Geneva on 10 December 2003, which advocated the following: (a) the global strategy to realize the Information Society must be based on concrete milestones rather than broad visions; (b) the Plan of Action should be adapted to each region’s unique and diverse needs; and (c) existing regional initiatives such as e-ASEAN should be leveraged upon when implementing ICT programmes.