As the Chairman of ASEAN this year, Thailand is extremely thoughtful in everything it does in its leadership. Not only that Thailand is very thoughtful in preparing the theme of its ASEAN Chairmanship in 2019, Thailand is also very thoughtful in taking the first steps in 2019 as its leadership begins.
Choosing a timely topic to discuss is indeed a very strategic move to take. As timely as it can be, ASEAN held the Special Session on the Fourth Industrial Revolution on January 2019.
In that meeting, Secretary-General of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi highlighted that “new technologies are bringing down barriers, connecting us better and in new and different ways; revolutionising the nature of cross-border relations and economic interactions across ASEAN.”
In addition to that, the Minister of Commerce of the Kingdom of Thailand Sontirat Sotijirawong delivered a keynote speech in which he stressed that the economy and society of the future would have to rely on creativity, innovation, and connectivity between technology and the production system to create competitiveness and increase productivity in driving sustainable economic growth.
In the first session on the opportunities and challenges for ASEAN in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Dr. Julia Tijaja of the ASEAN Secretariat informed that the ASEAN Secretariat has recently completed the Assessment Study on ASEAN readiness in 4IR. This assessment is done by looking at five readiness dimensions. Those five dimensions are innovation and technology, human capital, regulatory frameworks, infrastructure connectivity, and inclusive and sustainable growth. The assessment reveals that the Member States of ASEAN have different levels of readiness.
Previously in 2018, ASEAN has also conducted a very important meeting on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which was the World Economic Forum on ASEAN 2018. This event was followed by some other conferences in Southeast Asia, among those conferences was Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum 2018 that was held two months later on November.
Although ASEAN is already moving towards the right direction by recognizing the opportunities and challenges in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, that is not yet enough.
ASEAN leaders — under the leadership of Thailand this year — should be able to outline their priorities on paper. They have to take real steps, by producing a document outlining their plan this year in addressing the challenges brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how would they make use of the opportunities brought by Industry 4.0. This is important, so that by the end of Thailand’s chairmanship this year, ASEAN can come together and collectively assess what they have done in the past one year. Because only by doing this, ASEAN can be taken seriously by other players in international relations in regards to ASEAN’s contribution and effort to advance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.