ASEAN to Boost Internet Cooperation

The 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are emphasizing regional Internet development in two high-level meetings being held this week.

At the Sixth Meeting of ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI-VI) due to begin in Hanoi on Thursday, the grouping will pursue ways of strengthening Internet cooperation between countries, the organization said in a brief statement Tuesday.

Delegates to the meeting will discuss a common development plan for the region's telecommunications, closer cooperation in the Internet and electronic commerce fields, and arrange to set up an ASEAN Web site with information on each country and its culture, according to the statement.

This week also saw the fourth meeting of a government-private sector task force which is drafting a plan, known as e-ASEAN, to create a regional information economy.

Delegates to the Bangkok meeting were due to finalize the draft of an agreement to develop a broad and comprehensive action plan for an ASEAN e-space and allow the member countries to successfully compete in the global information economy, the grouping said.

Last month, e-ASEAN task force chairman Roberto Romulo called for pilot projects to jumpstart the initiative.

"We want to establish a strong ASEAN presence in the world of Internet and to show the global community that we have viable profit-making sites from our region," Romulo said at that time. "This first group of selected e-ASEAN projects will be presented to our (national) leaders to show them that the Internet and ICT (information and communication technology) are not only relevant to their constituents but that they also have real socio-economic benefits."

The final draft of the agreement will be presented at the Fourth ASEAN Informal Summit in November in Singapore where heads of government are expected to sign the e-ASEAN plan.

The 10 countries in ASEAN are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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