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ASEAN Needs a Revolution in Education, Business Leaders Warn

(PresseBox) (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, ) .

Business and policy leaders call for major education reforms in ASEAN to take advantage of its youthful demographics in order to meet challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Deeper regional integration is needed to make ASEAN an authentic single market
Regulators should take care not to stifle innovation and impede disruptive business models
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For ASEAN to meet the growth and inclusion challenges posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution – the rapid adoption of new technologies and digital systems – countries in the region must reform the way people are educated and be careful not to introduce regulations that stifle innovation and the adoption of disruptive business models, business and policy leaders warned in a session on the first day of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN.
Mari Elka Pangestu, Professor of International Economics at the University of Indonesia, who was a minister in the previous Indonesian government, said that with the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), “we have gone from pooling resources to pooling markets, but we have yet to pool our talent.” She added: “Technology is a means to an end. But people are still important – and they have to have the training and knowledge to use the technology.” Developing new skills, such as collaboration and empathy, is important. “With value chains, you can’t work in silos anymore,” she said.
Regulators, too, have to be educated, Pangestu argued. “Regulators and policy-makers are still in the old world. We have to regulate but we have to do it in a way that is in line with the new world. Governments tend to over-regulate and control in the old way. Policy-makers don’t know where all this is going so it is better to tread lightly.”
“We need a revolution in education” for both young and old people, declared Nazir Razak, Chairman of CIMB Group Holdings in Malaysia. Embracing the unprecedented wave of technological change means empowering people, particularly the youth, to challenge vested interests, especially the entrenched links between big business and government, he added.
Another key task for ASEAN is to deepen integration. “We have formed the AEC, but there are a lot of challenges that this region has yet to meet to create one ASEAN,” said Yoshiaki Fujimori, President and Chief Executive Officer of LIXIL Group in Japan and Co-Chair of the meeting. “The EU is not the model but we need to create an inclusive single region.” He observed that, because they never developed automated industries or digitized, some countries are in a position to adopt the latest technologies and systems. But this means governments will need to set up the socio-economic systems to address the problem of labour displacement. “We want creative destruction, but we don’t want destructive technologies,” Pangestu said. ASEAN institutions, such as the organization’s secretariat, would also have to be strengthened.
South-East Asia has key advantages over other regions, the experts reckoned. Being relatively young, its people are fast adopters of new technology. “There are lots of local platforms being mixed with global brands and platforms,” said Ulf Ewaldsson, Senior Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer of Ericsson in Sweden. Established companies such as CIMB will have to rely on this openness and flexibility to prosper. “We are being bashed by fintech,” Nazir told participants. “We have to respond. For an old company like us, we have to think like a fintech company, be innovative and become a fintech company ourselves.”

“What ASEAN has going for it is its young population that can adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” concluded Shahril Shamsuddin, President and Group Chief Executive Officer of SapuraKencana Petroleum in Malaysia and Co-Chair of the meeting. “With a new region, you can implement new structures without having to worry about legacy institutions. It is imperative that business takes the lead to capitalize on our young population.” Shahril predicted that the adoption of new technologies would spawn new supportive industries and business models around them. “There are opportunities for the young people of ASEAN to create new industries so the future is bright. I have lots of hope for the coming generation.”
In addition to Fujimori and Shahril, the other Co-Chairs of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN are Sigve Brekke, Chief Executive Officer, Telenor, Norway; Kathleen Chew, Group Legal Counsel, YTL Corporation Berhad, Malaysia; Salil Shetty, Secretary-General, Amnesty International, United Kingdom; and George Yeo, Visiting Scholar, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore.
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