E-Asean plan gets solid framework

The 10 member nations of the ASEAN group have agreed on a framework to push forward their plan to create a Southeast Asian electronic marketplace.

          The 10 member nations of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) group have agreed on a framework to push forward their plan to create a Southeast Asian electronic marketplace.

          The initiative, known as e-ASEAN, aims to lift the currently very low internet penetration rates and use of e-commerce in most member countries. It also plans to use IT and the internet to speed up economic integration of the group, and help them compete better in the global economy. The framework was agreed on by leaders of the 10 nations at the 4th Informal Summit held in Singapore last week.

          According to a joint communique, e-ASEAN will help to "turn ASEAN from 10 separate markets into a borderless market of 500 million consumers."

          The leaders also signed an agreement with IBM's Global Services division for a long-term programme of collaboration between IBM and the ASEAN Secretariat in which IBM will serve as the technical adviser to the ASEAN Secretariat on information technology matters.

          IBM will also participate in the setting up of a special IT task force to drive the implementation of the ASEAN Secretariat’s IT blueprint under the Hanoi Plan of Action. The Hanoi Plan of Action is a six-year regional work program adopted in December 1998 by ASEAN’s leaders.

          Aside from hardware and software applications, IBM will provide consulting services to assist the ASEAN Secretariat in implementing IT projects across the ASEAN region, the group said in a statement.

          A number of pilot e-commerce and infrastructure projects for the region were agreed upon. These include:

          • setting up an Asean Regional Internet Exchange (Arix) for directly exchanging Internet traffic between ASEAN countries
          • developing WeAsean.com, a business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce community for Asean's SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises)
          • developing an Asean marketplace for real estate trading, information sharing and collaboration called Real Estate in Cyberspace, to be run by Brunei's e-ASIANproperty.com
          • building a Knowledge Workers Exchange, an Asean portal for skilled labor activities, to be undertaken by Malaysia's MSC Development
          • developing AseanWorld.com, a regional information and transnational portal to house regional applications. This will be developed by Oracle, Sun Microsystems and Connect Singapore
          • developing a B2B marketplace for automobile parts, called GM Supply Power, to be run by General Motors
          • developing a portal for the tourism industry and called Asean eTourism Portal, to be handled by Malaysia's KUB Systems
          Another key aim of the e-ASEAN plan is to reduce the digital divide inside member countries, between member countries and between ASEAN and the rest of the world.

          Singapore's prime Minister Goh Chok Tong says the more developed IT economies within ASEAN will help Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar develop their resources in the field of IT. Singapore's internet penetration is around 50% now, but in each of the other four countries less than one person in a thousand has internet access.

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

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