Legislation is open to abuse, can stifle innovation, and is not effective against the complex issue of misinformation. Collaborative efforts to set up fact-checking programmes and voluntary codes, invest in digital literacy training, and develop tech tools to flag fake news are a better solution.
E-commerce, online media and food delivery have surged during the pandemic in a region where small and medium-sized firms provide half of all employment. Governments must enact policies that boost these firms’ entry into the digital economy, spur innovation and empower them to invest for the future.
Onerous content and licensing regulations, plus restrictions on data flow, will hinder the development of the region’s growing internet economy. Asean members must build on recent agreements on cross-border data flows.
The prize? A potential GDP boost of US$1 trillion by 2025. But first, Asean needs to nail down a progressive, inclusive policy approach, and also support and drive collaboration in the private sector so SMEs have the skills, space and funding to grow.
Governments in Southeast Asia are keen to capitalise on the opportunity presented by the digital economy, but their rush to regulate data flows and storage will hit start-ups and small local firms hard.