Digital inclusion: The policy journey towards greater opportunities, a new report from Economist Impact commissioned by the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), offers detailed insights into the opportunities and challenges of digital inclusion across select Asia-Pacific economies.
The findings of the report are based on desk research, in-depth qualitative interviews and a survey of 200 executives across India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam familiar with the digital and data strategy of their organisations.
Over half the world’s population is now online, but in the Asia-Pacific region, a glaring digital divide remains, which is limiting the socio-economic benefits to be accrued from digital inclusion. With better internet connectivity and easier access to information and communication technologies, the direct benefit in regional economies will be greater socio-economic opportunity for all (39%). It will also result in improved economic growth at a national level (38%), according to the survey.
However, the survey finds that accessibility and network connectivity related barriers are common in the region. Two in three (67%) of survey respondents are of the view there is inadequate focus on digital inclusion, and 65% say their governments do not invest money and resources to bridge digital divides. Countries in the region must do more to bridge these gaps and address availability, affordability, readiness and relevance.
Public-private collaboration is critical in this respect. More than four in five (81%) survey respondents say collaboration between the private sector and their government to address digital divides at a national level.
The Economist Impact survey also finds the biggest issues of contention between government and industry in bridging gaps are around leadership—who is responsible for enhancing digital inclusion (35%), who is responsible for regulation (30%) and the measurement of digital inclusion (27%).