ASEAN Must Cooperate to Compete in IT: Sec Gen

ASEAN must exploit the benefits of convergence as represented by the barrierless online world, Severino said in a keynote presentation at the ninth annual conference of the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations held in Beijing this week.

ASEAN member countries must also realise that the technological advances which made the new economy possible were the results of extreme individual creativity. An environment which encourages such creativity must be supported by countries' political systems, Severino said.

"ASEAN has recognized that its future competitiveness depends on its ability to develop and use technology," he said. "ASEAN knows that today the knowledge industries are both the arena of global competition and the weapons for succeeding in it. ASEAN knows that it has to pool its resources together, for no one country can do it alone, in acquiring the capacity to develop and use science and technology."

ASEAN is paying particular attention to information and communications technology, according to Severino.

A combined task force of public and private-sector representatives are working on a program for the building of e-ASEAN, a set of recommendations for setting the legal and economic environment for the development and use of information and communications technology, Severino said.

E-ASEAN also involves developing the human resources to exploit the technology, and identifying ways in which it can be used to good effect for business and social aspects such as health, education and rural development, Severino said.

"If it is increasingly true that these days most nations can compete effectively only through integrated regional economies, then people (in ASEAN) have to cultivate rapidly a sense of regional identity," Severino said. "They have to see regional integration and regional cooperation as benefiting them."

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

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