MANILA -- Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) need to establish a platform that would boost multi-country regulatory experiments and cross-border innovation hubs to better prepare the region for digital futures.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) have launched a joint report “ASEAN 4.0: What Does the Fourth Industrial Revolution Mean for Regional Economic Integration?” which discusses the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on ASEAN.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to a set of highly disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, blockchain and 3D printing, which are transforming social, economic and political systems.

“It (revolution) will bring huge benefits, such as empowering SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and creating new ways to connect citizens to healthcare. Equally, it will bring tremendous challenges, such as deep disruption to jobs as AI and advanced robotics undermine both manufacturing and services jobs,” the report said.

It said creating pan-ASEAN test beds for new approaches to regulation is imperative to supporting multi-country experiments in shaping new technologies.

The report further said such kind of initiative was set up in Europe last March, called the European Platform of National Initiatives (EPNI).

The EPNI aims to help European industries respond and stay abreast of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by linking national initiatives to create multi-country test beds and “sandboxes”, where regulations can be tested in different regulatory contexts to help a rapid roll-out across the wider European Union.

The report also offers other recommendations for ASEAN leaders to prepare their institutions for the coming challenges associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

It underscored the need for long-term blueprints to be replaced with three-year strategies that are revisited and revised frequently.

“Considering the speed of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, most forecasts will quickly be outdated. ASEAN must be agile and allow for course correction,” it noted.

The report said the ASEAN Secretariat should become a “platform organization” that allows for the integration of input from multi-stakeholder groups of experts, and delegate more activities to affiliated functional bodies.

ASEAN should also consider increasing its openness to their direct engagement in policy creation.

“As internet and smartphone penetration deepens across ASEAN, there is substantial opportunity to make ASEAN policy formulation more inclusive. Dedicated portals could be established to gain direct feedback from ASEAN citizens and experts and to crowdsource ideas,” it added. (PNA)