The e-ASEAN framework agreement signed last week by leaders from the 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries will adopt a holistic approach to developing ICT (information and communications technology) in the region.
A communique from the 4th Informal Summit said participant countries will act to achieve digital readiness through six areas of action, including connectivity, local content, a seamless environment for electronic commerce, a common marketplace for ICT goods and services, human resource development and e-governance.
The agreement commits member countries to "facilitate interconnectivity and technical interoperability among their ICT systems leveraging existing national networks and evolving these into a regional information infrastructure".
To begin with, a private sector-led ASEAN ISP forum will be convened to explore ways of promoting the more efficient flow of Internet traffic, including regional mirroring and hubbing and the setting up of national and regional Internet exchanges and Internet gateways.
To foster the growth of electronic commerce in the region, ASEAN governments committed themselves to create a seamless favourable legal and regulatory environment in order to encourage online business.
ASEAN governments also committed to facilitate the flow of ICT goods and services in the region and promote investments in the sector. Duties and non-tariff barriers on intra-ASEAN trade in ICT products will be eliminated in three stages, with liberalisation for most goods to be completed over a three-year period beginning on January 1, 2003.
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam will undertake the same measures beginning on January 1, 2008. Moreover, ASEAN will conclude mutual standards recognition arrangements covering ICT products, according to the communique.
To promote an e-ASEAN community, member countries will encourage the development of skills and proficiency in using ICT, through training and exchange of experiences. The more advanced countries will assist in their capacity-building effort through the sharing of training resources.
Finally, member governments committed to deliver more government services using ICT to make it more efficient and more widely diffused. The application of ICT will allow greater interaction between governments and their citizens, according to the communique.