Discussing the role of Asia in a changing world . . .
Digitalization is high on this year’s Future of Asia Conference agenda, with Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga signalling the country’s intention to lead a “free and open digital space in the Indo-Pacific.” Today marked the first day of the 26th annual Nikkei-organized Future of Asia Conference, where political, economic, and academic leaders discuss Asia's role in the world. Leaders addressed a wide range of issues and, mirroring the pandemic recovery focus of many economies globally, digitalization was a consistent theme.
‘A free and open digital space’ . . .
Suga spoke of leading next-generation digital standards and building up Indo-Pacific digital infrastructure, an aspiration echoed by several other leaders. He vowed to enhance R&D for 5G and 6G communications technology and lead standards development in telecommunications. Last week, Japan passed a law creating a digital policy agency to promote digitalization in government and the private sector. The announcements come amid the proliferation of big data and technology evolving at an unprecedented pace, increasingly driving economic growth and competition. Many see China’s digital rise as a threat, with the Middle Kingdom currently ahead of Japan in its 5G roll-out and making hefty investments in next-frontier technologies.
The future of digital standards . . .
As the world moves deeper into a data-driven economy, international digital standards take on increasing relevance. Digital trade, electronic transactions, data flows, and internet taxes are among myriad issues that can cause friction between economies where digital standards are misaligned. For its part, Canada has just closed public consultations on potentially joining the Digital Economic Partnership Agreement (DEPA), the first digital-only trade agreement between Singapore, New Zealand, and Chile. In an era of fierce competition to set digital rules for the global economy, DEPA could provide a counterweight to the powerful 'data triangle' of the U.S., EU, and China.