WEF report: East Asia enters the era of hyper connectivity

World Economic Forum information and communications technology expert Danil Kerimi explains how truly understanding and harnessing digital globalisation can help all Asean nations to compete in the global marketplace.

Today we live in a world that is enormously complex and interdependent. Hyperconnectivity fundamentally redefines the way individuals, enterprises and governments interconnect and relate with each other.  It provides new innovation models, new growth opportunities and new risks to manage and mitigate.

This complexity makes it impossible to establish the linear cause-effect relationships so dear to our hearts. Combine this with an ever increasing velocity of change, radical transparency, new ways of creating value for business and society, as well as with risks and challenges which we do not yet fully comprehend, and you will see why leaders are so desperate for a roadmap that would help them to start understanding and embracing this new, emerging reality. 

The World Economic Forum has developed two sets of tools to serve as the starting point for understanding and building solutions to guide decision making that will enable us to achieve the outcomes we all collectively value.

Our first tool: The Global Information Technology Report

Jointly developed with selected academic and industry partners, the Global Information Technology Report aims to be a comprehensive global platform for assessing, understanding and debating the best solutions and policies to allow countries to fully utilise information and communications technology (ICT) to compete on the global market place.

Since 2001, we have been tracking the “network readiness” of various countries and compiling our findings together with the latest thinking on the revolutionary changes that ICT brings around. The index is half based on the hard data that source from the World Bank, International Telecommunications Union and other organisations and half on the World Economic Forum’s annual survey of 15,000 business executives. We covered 144 economies in 2013. The results show that leveraging ICT is crucial for competitiveness and countries need to develop holistic strategies to integrate ICT into the innovation eco-system.

A couple of graphs can help explain deep and growing intra-regional disparities, especially within Asean where we have some of the most connected countries in the world (Singapore ranked second in the world this year) and some of the least connected (e.g. Cambodia ranked 106. We are hoping to include Myanmar in the next edition).

Besides ranking, the report features many insightful contributions from global enterprises and national decision-makers.This year, for example, Rwanda explains how lack of natural resources provided it with an opportunity to take a different approach to development from its neighbors – an approach whereby ICT is the linchpin of Rwanda’s plans to fundamentally transform its economy.

In another example, Colombia shows how its growing ICT ecosystem creates new jobs in different industries and sectors and how the government is trying to accelerate these processes. From the International organisations, the organisation of American States focused on e-government in Latin America while the OECD highlight the need for better data on ICT in health. Among our industry partners, examples include BT’s chapter on the importance of Fibre broadband, Booz’s contribution on digitalisation, CISCO’s work on relationship between broadband, economic growth and employment and McKinsey’s call to boost ICT spending in Europe as a way out of the crisis to name just a few.

The disruptive impact of information and communication technology is increasingly bringing about social and economic transformation. The Global Information Technology Report is an indispensable tool for policymakers, business leaders and researchers in their quest to establish greater trust, transparency and understanding for a more balanced and reliable ICT ecosystem.

Our second tool: The hyperconnectivity project

As the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds collide and billions of people, processes and things interconnect, understanding the impact of hyperconnectivity has become a global priority. We are bringing leaders together to explore the dynamics of complexity, the challenges of decision-making and the manner in which principle-based solutions can serve to strengthen trust, resilience and innovation.

We are also looking at the implications of the systemic changes created by hyperconnectivity - increased velocity, complexity, transparency and interdependency - that impact global leaders' decision-making. And we are exploring how individuals can be supported to better understand their needs and more effectively incorporate their voices into the global agenda, and what skills and aptitudes are necessary to strive under the conditions of hyperconnectivitiy.

As part of the project, we developed deep-dives driven by the fact that most of them are different manifestations of the same phenomena (like a famous story of the elephant and the wise men):

Risk and Responsibility in a Hyperconnected World looks at the collective cyber risks and roles for private sector, government, and the individual in protecting informational and infrastructural assets.

Rethinking Personal Data examines the ways in which individuals can strengthen the trust, transparency and control of the personal data created by and about them and how do we leverage analytical engines of big data to further economic growth.

Sustaining Digital Infrastructure highlights the fact that ever growing portion of global wealth creation depends on the digital economy and we increasingly rely on access to high-performance digital infrastructure, both fixed and wireless. 

New Media Norms shows how the evolution of digital technology makes it ever more difficult for anyone to control or regulate the manner and flow of information and that policies and practices developed in an analogue world are clearly inadequate. 

Connected Transport develops scenarios to provide an industry perspective on how the travel and transportation ecosystem may transform under the influence of changes in customer needs, new mobility frontiers and technological developments by 2025 and beyond. 

Today, the whole Asean region and Myanmar particularly is undergoing tremendous change. A lot of emphasis is being put on connecting this previously closed society to the outside world. This connectivity both physical (e.g. pipeline to China; new ports at Thilawa, Dawei, Sittwe; planned highways to Thailand and elsewhere) and digital (Myanmar is one of the last countries on the planet to open up its mobile market with two new licences planned to be awarded this summer) will lead to new flow of goods and ideas. 

It is important that the country adopts a holistic view on the reform. For example, the infrastructure investment will become even more efficient with the reform of governmental procedures and application of later technology to facilitate movement of people (e.g. e-visa) and goods (e.g. e-docs for cargo). 

Similarly, as the internet dramatically accelerates the spread of information, it can bring lots of benefits, but can also enable rogue actors to misinform and hurt the population in other ways. It is extremely important to allow technology, which is neutral by nature, to be used for good purposes.

As we are holding our first World Economic Forum on East Asia in Myanmar this year, we will ask the participants to examine key technological, business and regulatory dynamics shaping the ICT landscape in Myanmar and the region and invite them to explore opportunities for the country to integrate into the process of digital globalisation.

Related search: World Economic Forum, ICT, Danil Kerimi, Myanmar