ASEAN to Pursue Regional E-Commerce Initiative

SINGAPORE (05/03/2000) - The 10 countries making up the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) group have agreed to develop a regional framework for electronic commerce and an initiative to make the Internet widely available in all member countries.

The agreement is intended to help ASEAN be competitive in the new global economy, according to a statement from economic ministers of the 10 countries, currently meeting in Myanmar's capital, Yangon.

The initiative, known as e-ASEAN, covers the legal, physical, social and economic infrastructure needed to develop ASEAN's competitiveness in the knowledge-based economy.

The e-ASEAN task force, headed by former Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Roberto Romulo, has laid down a set of directions for the initiative.

The directions include these:

-- to foster the development of a knowledge-based society;-- to narrow the digital divide between rich and poor people;-- to enhance the competitiveness of the work force;-- to use technology to enhance the spirit of the ASEAN community;-- to leverage the existing infrastructure and best practices in the region to spur economic growth; and-- to use technology to facilitate links between the public and private sectors.

Among the specific projects suggested by the e-ASEAN task force in its report are these:

Dot Com Incubators: to promote the development of small Internet businesses by providing entrepreneurs with an assortment of business support resources and services at a relatively low cost.e-Commerce exchange: a marketplace where companies can conduct business-to-business transactions online.

ASEANMall.net: a virtual mall project aimed at creating a neutral Internet-based intermediary that will serve as an electronic marketplace.

ASEAN e-community: a project designed to foster the spirit of the ASEAN community by using the Internet and other mechanisms to allow ASEAN citizens to learn more about the arts and culture in the various member countries.

ASEAN SchoolNet: to connect every school in ASEAN to the information access networks.

Knowledge Worker Exchange: an initiative to enable countries to tap into the pool of qualified knowledge workers and increase their capabilities and productivity.

Teachers On Line: to create an ASEAN-based online "community of practice" for teachers, educators, researchers and students, with a view toward promoting professional development through the exchange of information.e-Entrepreneurship Seminars: to focus on the basics of IT-based entrepreneurship and train young entrepreneurs to deal with the challenges of doing business in the 21st century.

Regional TradeNet: to provide the opportunity to increase trade and investments as well as intergovernmental cooperation. For entrepreneurs, exporters and investors, providing trade data and business forms online will be important, according to the report.

ASEAN includes countries with very different levels of IT and telecommunications infrastructure and different views on the desirability of transparency in business and government dealings. One of the challenges of the e-ASEAN project is to accommodate all these views while driving the project forward, according to Romulo.

The Yangon meeting continues until tomorrow, with the added participation of China, Japan and South Korea -- a group known as ASEAN+3.

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

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