The 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries are to set up a high-level task force to coordinate e-commerce and Internet activities across the region with the intent of improving economic competitiveness.
In a statement delivered after the 31st ASEAN economic ministers' meeting here last week, the ministers said that they had agreed to set up an initiative called E-ASEAN aimed at developing within the region the necessary skills for competing in the global e-commerce market.
The initiative will consist of a high-level public-private task force that will develop a broad-based and comprehensive action plan, covering the necessary physical, legal, logistical, social and economic infrastructure needed, the statement said.
Singapore's Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, said that the initiative to build an ASEAN-wide information infrastructure was to ensure that Southeast Asia would not be left behind by the IT age.
"If we are slow in embracing IT in our commercial and daily lives, we will always be hewers of wood and drawers of water," he said, according to a transcript. "This is a concrete project that would improve ASEAN's competitiveness in the long term. It covers an entire framework of IT, communications, and legal issues."
ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.