Technology and innovation make lives easier but they pose challenges especially for developing countries.

During the 2017 Asia-Pacific Forum with the theme “Integration and Inclusiveness in a Digital Society”, experts talked about the various challenges that ASEAN member-states face as they try to keep up with the fast-paced digital era.

Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) Senior Research Fellow Jose Ramon Albert pointed out that “technology [has] brought change but [has] widened [the] divide” globally, adding that at present, about half of the world’s population still does not have access to the vast resources available on the internet. This, despite improvements, in internet penetration rates and falling prices for ICT services, according to Albert.

UP School of Economics Professional Lecturer Josef Yap also said that technology has resulted to a rise in income inequality in Asia. He argued that technological progress, among other things, has opened vast economic opportunities and thus caused “increased returns to human capital and skill premium, with individuals having higher educational attainment and skill endowment able to benefit more from the new opportunities”.

Meanwhile, Out-of-the-Box Consultancy Chairman Man-Jung Mignonne Chan recognized the positive effects brought by innovation and technology especially to the manufacturing, commerce, health, and education sectors but also mentioned that these have caused many to fear about losing their jobs.

Despite the challenges that come with innovation and technology , Tri Thanh Vo, a senior researcher from the Central Institute for Economic Management urged ASEAN member-states to take advantage of the technological revolution and digital age, as these are important in creating a new dynamism for the region’s economic growth and development. Among the challenges that ASEAN member-states need to address are the lack of human capital and talent, payment regulations and mechanisms, internet infrastructure, logistics infrastructure, and low consumer awareness and trust.

To address these issues, Yap highlighted the importance of making innovation and technology more inclusive in three aspects—industrial, territorial, and social inclusiveness.

Emphasizing that there is “nothing to dread” about technology and innovation, Chan said the government should work on policies focusing on social re-engineering (e.g., preparing for phase-out industry retraining and reemployment), industry sectoral restructuring (e.g., phasing out industries that harm the environment and encouraging green technology), and regional integration (e.g., promoting cooperation when it comes to technological innovation).

Likewise, Albert underscored the need for technological innovation especially for developing countries. He also lamented how developing countries invest very little on innovation, despite it being a “major driver of economic output, productivity, and competitiveness”. A 2016 PIDS study also showed that product and process innovations result to increase in sales and profits of firms. In the Philippines, only less than half of firms in the country are innovators, according to the latest Survey on Innovation Activities he presented during the forum.

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