Southeast Asia is a very dynamic region with a population of about 600 million, rich natural resources and a relatively stable environment. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) geo-political region is showing rapid economic growth. The integration process pushed forward by a strong political will of the ASEAN leaders will make it more competitive in the global market. According to high-level international economists the prospects for future economic growth remain good and a recent trend to invest in intangible capital (R&D investments) highlights the ASEAN political resolution to move from “merely sustaining healthy economic growth rates to having an economic growth that is “inclusive,” “green” and “knowledge-based.” The ASEAN leaders have envisioned that by 2020 the region will be technology competitive, competent in strategic and enabling technologies, with an adequate pool of technologically qualified and trained manpower, and strong networks of scientific and technological institution and centres of excellence.

The task of moving up the technology ladder and to enhance the capability for technological development is not easy though, since the ASEAN member states are ten developing countries with great variance in the level of science and technology capability. Singapore, for example, is very advanced and already today is a major ICT hub in SEA. Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam are very active in ICT research, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar are at the early stages of developing ICT research in some particular areas of interest. Brunei ICT research is still very limited. The ASEAN countries will have to move their cooperation forward more vigorously and promote deeper integration and at the same time more specifically tailor and target their investments.

As a first step, the ten ASEAN member states have endorsed a framework for intra-regional cooperation on science, technology and innovation - the KRABI initiative - in 2010. The diagram below illustrates the ASEAN strategic approach to consolidate intangible capital and to achieve a “knowledge-based economy” objective. Out of the eight areas identified as priorities for increasing the competitiveness of the region and improving the quality of life, two are ICT-related: regional digital society and embracing new media and social networking. The Krabi Initiative shall be referenced in the preparation of APAST 2016-2020.

Graphic: ASEAN