Senior Officials from the 21 APEC member economies are taking the next steps to advance digitally driven trade and development. They are intent on securing new growth opportunities vital to improving livelihoods across the Asia-Pacific.

Meeting for the first time in 2018, in the aftermath of the strongest earthquake in Papua New Guinea’s history and amid looming uncertainties in the global trading environment, officials offered sympathies for the disaster victims. They also underscored the urgency of revitalizing policy regimes as a force for recovery and resilience in the digital economy.

“The key challenge that all APEC member economies now face is how to develop policies and strategies that will allow the potential of digital economies to be harnessed,” explained Ambassador Ivan Pomaleu, 2018 Chair of APEC Senior Officials. He pointed to the implications for innovative development in sectors like telecommunications, transport, health and education.

“It is timely that Papua New Guinea is raising awareness about the importance of the digital economy and what is required as each of us seek to rationalize policy that encourages active participation by all members of society,” Ambassador Pomaleu continued. “It is increasingly clear that APEC economies have much to learn from one another in this area.”

Officials are detailing measures to boost access to mobile networks and interconnectivity, with a focus on enabling infrastructure development and the modernization of regulations and standards so that they are compatible with fast-changing data movement and security considerations.

Parallel work is being done on enhancing reforms and on the delivery of education and skills training to better equip workers for employment in the digital economy. Officials also aim to empower small firms – ranging from farmers to tourism providers – to tap new markets and business partners via technologies like smart phones, online search platforms, branding apps and payment systems.

“The impact of technology is far bigger than the mere provision of innovative products and services developed by digital firms,” noted Ambassador Pomaleu. “Access to the internet can allow for much broader engagement in the market economy, particularly by women and micro enterprises—even in rural areas.”

“The digital age is critical to all of us and we all must take appropriate steps to ensure that it benefits all of our economies,” Ambassador Pomaleu concluded. “Throughout 2018, Papua New Guinea will be looking to take forward APEC work to help all of our people harness inclusive opportunities and embrace the digital future.”

The First APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting will conclude in Port Moresby on Friday.

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