World Economy

ASEAN Needs to Invest in Youth

ASEAN Needs to Invest in YouthASEAN Needs to Invest in Youth

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, “we have gone from pooling resources to pooling markets, but we have yet to pool our talent,” an ASEAN press release said.

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.

“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.

South-East Asia has key advantages over other regions, the experts reckoned. Being relatively young, its people are fast adopters of new technology.

“What ASEAN has going for it is its young population that can adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Shahril Shamsuddin, president and CEO 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.”