From ‘hardware’ to ‘human-ware’ | Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

With 640 million consumers, a growing middle-income group and growing smartphone penetration, Southeast Asia presents huge opportunities for technology and ancillary companies.

However, each country’s ability to compete in the digital economy varies, and geographic divides prevent the region from integrating into a common digital market for investment, goods, or labor.

The Digital Silk Road aims to complement the Belt and Road Initiative’s land and sea connectivity by connecting countries via fiber optic cables, cell towers, widespread internet and telecommunications connections, as well as “soft” digital infrastructures such as common technical standards, city developments”, e-commerce platforms, mobile payment systems and other applications of the digital economy. As the world’s second largest digital economy after the United States, China has benefited greatly from its advanced digital infrastructure during its own rise.

China-based information and communications technology companies have a vested interest in advancing the digital silk road to secure access to untapped overseas markets and promote local development. Unlike the large-scale physical infrastructure of the Belt and Road Initiative, Digital Silk Road projects are feasible in a resource-constrained environment because they are less expensive and easier to complete.

The digital silk road is gaining momentum in Southeast Asia. The China-ASEAN Information Port was launched in 2019, and a number of submarine cable projects are under construction. Chinese private companies, such as Huawei, Alibaba and Sense-Time, have invested heavily in the region. Huawei established its OpenLab in Bangkok as part of the “Thailand 4.0” initiative in 2017 and launched the first 5G testbed in February 2020. Kuala Lumpur became the first city outside China to adopt the city system smart from AliCloud. Alibaba has helped Southeast Asian small and medium-sized enterprises access the vast Chinese market through the global electronic commerce platform. eWTP’s Malaysian hub is home to over 2,600 Malaysian SMEs and is estimated to have created 60,000 jobs and generated billions of dollars in trade revenue.

Chinese companies involved in Digital Silk Road projects are also helping to connect people through exchange programs and training programs. Huawei has established training centers in various countries since 2012 for young people in the telecommunications industry. Its “Seeds for the Future” program has invited more than 30,000 selected engineering students from more than 108 countries (including Southeast Asia) to train in China in the telecommunications sector and in Huawei operations since 2011. .

The Digital Silk Road will have a strong impact on the region’s employment prospects as e-commerce, e-payments and other digital projects become increasingly popular. It will also facilitate job creation in mobile app development, virtual reality design and working online or joining the so-called gig economy job market. More widespread access to affordable digital infrastructure will create an enabling environment in which on-demand and other services can thrive. Examples range from grocery delivery and ride-sharing services to more sophisticated tasks, such as accounting, editing, and music production.

Furthermore, by expanding access to markets, especially the huge Chinese market, the digital silk road infrastructure will also facilitate the creation of new and efficient value chains by creating new channels and modes of trade. worldwide and facilitating cross-border logistics.

The private sector’s shift to digital commerce makes large-scale economic growth and jobs possible, especially for SMEs. The COVID-19 pandemic further reinforces these trends. China and many countries are increasingly using digital technology and big data. The success of using artificial intelligence and other technologies to identify and monitor virus carriers is sparking interest across Southeast Asia.

Furthermore, the sudden reliance of so many on the ability to work remotely indicates that a significant and inclusive expansion of Wi-Fi, broadband, and other hardware and software infrastructure will be needed to enable acceleration. digitized economic activity. As such, Southeast Asian companies will likely express interest in deeper and broader collaboration with Chinese tech companies around their proven technologies and business implementation models.

However, this positive economic trajectory is not certain. Without well-designed policies, the forces of change could go in the opposite direction or increase income inequality. The gains offered by the digital silk road also threaten to displace workers and exacerbate inequalities between high-skilled and low-skilled workers. Digital work generated by new technologies requires internet access and is subject to education and skills biases, which can disadvantage less connected, less digitally literate and less educated workers, often located in areas rural or poor. As proponents of the Digital Silk Road have pledged to improve the connectivity of digital infrastructure, participating countries will need to create a roadmap to address the tensions between uneven technology adoption and the introduction of digital technologies. At work.

Since many future jobs will be different from today’s jobs and will require specific skills, it is important to place more emphasis on closing the gaps in the region’s education and training programs. This forces governments to shift their policy agendas from “hardware” to “human software”, making substantial investments in human capital and improving the digital skills of the next generation of workers. China can also share its experience and practices in strengthening resources for the workforce and improving the availability and accessibility of on-the-job training. Public-private partnerships should also be leveraged to facilitate technology transfer and training.

Increased Digital Silk Road activity will lead to more frequent cross-border data flows, posing new policy challenges in the areas of privacy, security, competition and taxation. This will require collaboration between the Chinese government and Southeast Asian governments to work together in terms of legislation regarding cross-border data transfers, dispute resolution mechanisms, risk early warning and network security. , and the unification of technical standards. Regulations and protective laws will also need to be put in place to control governments and private companies, building mutual trust and shared benefits for sustainable digital economies.
Source: China Daily

Comments are closed.