Telecommunications and Information Ministers from the 21 APEC members are finalizing a new five-year plan for maximizing the potential of the internet to unlock next generation growth across Asia-Pacific economies and improve the lives of the three billion people of the region.


Rounding out the details of the plan, to direct industry policy in APEC through 2020, is the focal point of a two-day meeting of Ministers in Kuala Lumpur that concludes on Tuesday. Emphasis is on boosting digital infrastructure, network access for consumers and the secure, value-creating application of new information and communications technologies. Recommendations from private sector representatives are being considered in crafting the plan.


“Governments in the Asia-Pacific hold the means to unlock the potential of the digital economy which is still largely unrealised,” said Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Malaysia’s Minister of Communications and Multimedia and Chair of the APEC Telecommunications and Information Ministerial Meeting. He pointed to the need for regulatory and governance reforms that keep pace with new technological breakthroughs.   


“Our industry does not wait for policymakers and regulators to say ‘yes’ before they innovate,” Shabery explained. “We must be dynamic in the way we work to support industry innovation, and to promote this innovation towards meaningful and appropriate application and adoption by other sectors.”


APEC members are the world’s largest producers and consumers of information and communications technology. Ministers are intent on creating a policy environment that promotes the use of the internet and tools such as smart phones, global positioning systems and ‘big data’ and ‘open data’ to drive entrepreneurship and small business participation in cross-border trade, bolstering employment, wages and living standards.


“In this region, we have seen how ICT has created excellent conditions for commercial innovation, action and new wealth,” Shabery noted. “However, old business models are now under threat from models emerging from the digital economy. Established businesses are witnessing reduced investments and jobs.”


“Pushing for high broadband penetration rates is no longer sufficient and should be about more than access to the internet for socializing reasons alone,” he added. “We need to enhance strategies to allow Asia-Pacific economies and the people of the region to tap into the commercial opportunities that can be gained through the use of broadband. This can only happen through consistent and sufficient investment in the ICT sector.”


Policy measures for enhancing the security of ICT networks and infrastructure are also on the table.


“We must continue to create a positive and trusted cyber environment where the flow of data and confidentiality of transactions is protected,” Shabery exhorted. “Due to the scale of cyber threats and attacks which have surfaced in recent times, we have been made painfully aware that security of the cyber environment must be an on-going and holistic process that guarantees connectivity and protects communication.”


Ways to safeguard against shocks caused by natural disasters and to apply ICT to support the social and economic welfare of youth, the elderly and disabled are additional points of attention.


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