The Role of ICT in Driving Regional Integration and Competitiveness
Dr Yeo Lay Hwee
Director, EU Centre in Singapore
Counsellor for ICT and Audiovisual for ASEAN, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea,
Assoc Prof Margaret Tan
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
Deputy Director, Singapore Internet Research Centre, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
Dr Chung Peichi
Communications and New Media Programme, National University of Singapore.
Mr Evangelos Apostolou
Vice President and Chief Counsel APAC, BT Global Services
The salience of information and communications technology (ICT) to the deepening of ASEAN integration was recently highlighted at the ASEAN summit in Hanoi, where government leaders adopted the Masterplan for ASEAN Connectivity, in a bid to realize the ASEAN Community by 2015. It was thus timely to have this panel discussion looking at how ICT can drive regional integration and competitiveness.
Mr Christophe Forax elucidated on the necessity for the EU’s internal market for ICT products and services, given the importance of ICT for the EU’s economy and productivity growth. Having an internal market here would imply the use of common technological standards, common rules for ICT-based services, and the removal of obstacles to the free movement of such services. Thanks to the EU’s mobile roaming regulation, European consumers enjoy pricing caps on voice calls, SMSes and mobile data downloading that have reduced intra-Europe roaming charges by 70% since the ‘Euro tariffs’ were introduced in 2007. Meanwhile the EU’s ‘broadband for all’ policy supports the work of its Regional Policy in reducing structural and economic disparities between its regions, as well as in providing legal certainty and in supporting competition in the telecoms market.
The EU believing in the potential and opportunities in the ICT market in this region has cooperated actively with ASEAN such as in supporting conferences and dialogues on telecoms regulation. The EU is also ASEAN’s partner in the latter’s Telecommunications Senior Officials Meeting (TELSOM) process. Some lessons that could be learnt from the EU experience pertain to the key principles of regulation in an internal market – namely, the need for an independent regulatory authority, the avoidance of monopolization through ex-ante regulatory tools, and the importance of winning consumers’ trust, such as by guarding their contractual rights.
Assoc Prof Margaret Tan highlighted security issues – namely online fraud – among a host of problems relating to data privacy in ICT, which also includes use limitation and accountability. These issues are accentuated by the ambiguity over legal jurisdiction in the virtual world of privacy protection. They are also complicated by the fundamental regional differences in models of privacy and data protection between the US/North America, APEC and the EU, in spite of a growing global harmonization of legal instruments. She prompted the audience to consider other challenges posed by rapid developments in ICT which in turn drive globalization. These includes issues relating to intellectual property rights, the ‘creative commons’, and digital rights managements.
Dr Chung Peichi shared findings from her ongoing research on media integration in Asia. Her study was confined to the three East Asian countries of Japan, South Korea and China, because they occupy a substantial 74% of the total market revenue in media entertainment for Asia. In analyzing country data to determine the level of regional media integration, the fields of the market, IT infrastructure, regulation, trade and industry were found to be unpromising. The lack of standardization is understandable considering the very different political and economic systems of the East Asian countries. Nonetheless while the circumstances do pose a challenge to the interests of media and entertainment producers, the latter have also been quick to adapt strategies to “Asianize” their products reflecting a degree of standardization in media format, narrative and story development (for TV drama series, for instance). She concluded that this ‘calls for a cultural approach’ towards media integration, one that taps on the ‘blockbuster effect’ of the media content themselves, and on ‘Asianization’ as a concept to produce regionally-competitive products.
The view from the private sector was offered by Mr Evangelos Apostolou, who kicked off the discussion in the room by posing the question: what factors would an out-of-region investor consider when deciding whether to invest in a new market? Topics discussed included the comparison different regional and country models of governmental regulation, the positive effects of harnessing ICT for environmental sustainability, and the opportunities for transfers of the knowledge.
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