ADB urges Southeast Asia to close gap, expand investments in digital infra

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 21) — The Asian Development Bank urged Southeast Asian countries to provide equal access to technology and expand investments in digital infrastructure as the region recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We must close the digital divide and expand existing investments in digital infrastructure by building more and higher quality mobile broadband infrastructure and ensuring affordable internet access and coverage,” a bank statement quoted ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa as saying Wednesday at the regional lender's first Southeast Asia Development Symposium.

Asakawa added that these can help improve access to necessities, like health, education, and financial needs to supplement efforts of economies to address the widening gap in income and opportunities due to the global health crisis.

The pandemic led to the contraction of many economies around the world due to lockdowns that limited business activities. For the Philippine economy, ADB is projecting a 7.3% contraction in 2020, worse than its 3.8% forecast in June, as well as the 5.5% contraction expected by the country’s economic team.

Asakawa also mentioned key policy areas that can enhance efforts of countries in the region to rebuild themselves towards sustainable growth, including addressing regional disparities and ensuring equitable access to technology while strengthening cyber security and facilitating green and resilient recovery through investments that promote environment friendly practices.

He also noted the need to boost regional cooperation and integration through better digital connectivity, e-customs systems, and electronic cargo tracking systems. He called too for the boosting of domestic resources to finance public services while ensuring debt sustainability; and for help for small businesses to establish themselves through technology as well as financial, academic, and business ecosystem support.

The symposium, with the theme “The New Normal: Driving Economic Recovery through Digital Innovation,” was a one-day virtual event attended by over 1,700 public and private sector representatives from 57 countries. Its aims to develop solutions to relevant issues and support countries in their transition to high-income, knowledge-based, and sustainable economies.