Southeast Asian Nations Reveal ICT Masterplan, China Is of Little Help

While the ASEAN group of nations meet this week to hash out a grand ICT vision for Southeast Asia, neighboring China, a so-called leader in the region, struggles with its own ICT infrastructure.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have revealed their "ICT Masterplan" in Malaysia this week, which includes provisions to create its own regional Internet exchange, complete with an "ASEAN broadband corridor linking key cities in the region," Channel News Asia reports.

The ICT Masterplan also lays out a framework to increase access to affordable technologies, encourage and train Southeast Asian residents in ICT jobs, and other cross-country initiatives that help bridge the digital divide both between countries and within countries.

ASEAN countries include Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, among others—in other words some of the smaller, less developed nations in Asia, who are both dependent on ties with China and hungry for more investment. That said, while the ASEAN countries look to China, China is actually struggling tremendously with its own ICT infrastructure. Just this week China opened its first cyber crime fighting police unit, as reports of viruses and phishing skyrocket. So how China will support ASEAN in its ICT goals is thus unclear.

"The better equipped countries are Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. If the new ASEAN exchange can connect with China's, it'll further stimulate economic activities," said Mr Xi Guohua, Chinese Senior Vice Minister for Telecommunications Sector.

Economics aside—if increased ICT ties with China come to fruition, the ASEAN countries might be worse off than before.

Follow me, Jenara Nerenberg, on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user emilio labrador]

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