ASEAN pushes ahead with wired initiative

The 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries have formally endorsed a plan to form a regional electronic community and have set up a special task force to accelerate its development.

The plan, known as E-ASEAN, is designed to enable the countries to enhance their ability to trade electronically and thereby improve their global competitiveness. It will involve creating a dense network of Internet connections throughout the region available to all subscribers, effectively turning the region into a single electronic space.

The decision was taken at the last week's meeting in Manila, the Philippines, of ASEAN's ministers of trade and industry, foreign affairs and finance, the ASEAN secretariat said in a statement.

The task force, to be headed by former Philippine foreign affairs secretary Roberto Romulo, will be granted initial seed money of $US100,000 to come up with concrete proposals for infrastructure development, electronic commerce transactions and the development of a framework for the development of an e-community of ASEAN countries.

The drive to build a regional electronic community is a development of the original plan to build a network backbone called the ASEAN Information Infrastructure, and will involve private sector companies as well as government organisations. The private sector is expected to contribute many of the applications and services which will run over the generally government-provided infrastructure, the ASEAN secretariat said.

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