Southeast Asia has one of the highest internet penetration rates in the world. With rates above 70%, it is primed to become a major player in the eCommerce and digital industry. The global rollout of 5G and its commercial applications is further stimulating this digital transformation. 

With the increasing need to tackle various climate change challenges, many companies in the region are starting to embrace sustainability and taking into consideration the many factors involved in implementing greener frameworks. This paves the way for policymakers in ASEAN to create a valid model that spans all countries, ensuring that trade and infrastructure development are not the only key growth factors of the economy as they strive towards achieving digitalisation in Southeast Asia.

5G – New and fast businesses fueled by technology 

The rise of 5G technology and the business models behind it are exciting and groundbreaking. This new network would significantly increase connection speeds, optimising the exchange of information on the internet. Management consulting company Kearney has evaluated the adoption of 5G in Southeast Asia and predicted a series of scenarios that might affect each country differently: 

  • Breakthrough: The implementation of 5G will be an impactful asset to Singapore as it leads the way in launching 5G, by positively affecting technologies and creating new avenues of business. 
  • Benefit for leading operators: Large operators can take advantage of the technology to expand their enterprise-related services. This is particularly visible in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. 
  • Another tech layer: Like the 4th Generation, a careful rollout is suitable to optimise performance and capacity. This structured scenario applies to Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, and the rest of the region. 

Climate challenges in ASEAN

Environmental complications are a significant threat, mainly because Southeast Asia relies heavily on industries like agriculture, tourism and fishing. All of these sectors are at risk of environmental endangerment within the next 30 to 40 years. 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has reported that if left unchecked, environmental changes could cause a GDP loss of 11% for ASEAN members by 2100. Thus, eco-friendly options are becoming a major driving force in the region. Some Southeast Asian startups creating greener, cleaner strategies are applying their technologies in sectors such as agriculture and biodigester, portable energy, energy efficiency, environmentally friendly waste control, and solar power industries. 

Policies towards a greener future

In its report, the ADB has suggested a series of actionable recommendations from a policy standpoint. Firstly, they recommend the region policymakers encourage society’s adaptability through information, education and the implementation of regulations, management tactics, financial support and institutional change. Factors like income equality, the strength of public institutions, public health services and the diversification of the economy in a local setting will define this adaptability.

The second stage is to migrate the region’s economy to one that produces less carbon, focusing on lowering pollution and energy consumption. With the advent of 5G, though, it is yet to be seen whether this new technology will help or hinder energy consumption.

What is the leading barrier to digital transformation in Southeast Asia

The third recommendation is a collaboration with international and regional entities for funding and the exchange of information to create an emissions trading scheme. These collaborations could boost the creation and adoption of low-carbon technologies. 

The report also suggests stronger coordination within governments in Southeast Asia Ecological issues affect every aspect of peoples’ lives, so government agencies should work together to tackle problems caused by changes in the climate and implement inter-agency programs and solutions. 

The final approach proposed is to double down on environmental impact research. The more we know about what lies ahead, the better prepared we will be towards the future challenges the environment hurls at us.

ASEAN COVID-19 response

Several economies in Southeast Asia have stayed afloat despite the fallout caused by lockdowns. In Singapore’s case, preparedness was a key factor. With its experience with the SARS epidemic of 2003, the country was ready to do whatever was necessary to handle the health crisis. But not all nations were prepared, and some of the countries in the region that were affected the most are Myanmar, Laos and Indonesia. 

Southeast Asian nations must embrace digital transformation and not rely exclusively on trade and infrastructure development. The expansion of the region’s data centres — Singapore’s underwater fibre connectivity routes over 90% of internet traffic — and the advent of IoT-related devices, promise a booming economy that revolves around technology and the preservation of our environment. 

By pairing procedures that fight climate change with the expansion of 5G technologies, many opportunities for new businesses that focus on sustainability will emerge, offsetting the challenges the tourism, farming and fishing industries will sustain in the future.