The first session of the ASEAN Future Forum 2024 (AFF 2024) in Hanoi on April 23 focused on fast and sustainable growth for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

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ASEAN Secretary General Kao Kim Hourn. Photo: Le Anh Dung

Chairing the event, Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal, Founder of the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia stressed that ASEAN's community building goals are closely linked with the United Nations' 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025 (ADM 2025).

He said this forum serves as a platform for stakeholders to showcase the bloc's commitment and actions toward a new global consensus on multilateral solutions to current and future challenges.

Discussions focused on potential governance models and initiatives that allow member countries to overcome economic instability and complexity in strategic geography toward sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the post-pandemic era. This included seeking a harmonious balance between the urgent needs for rapid socioeconomic development and the requirements for environmental sustainability and strategic autonomy, taking into account the importance of data-driven decision-making, public-private partnerships, and innovative solutions in renewable energy, circular economy, and sustainable supply chains.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres sent a message to the forum. 

According to him, over the past six decades, ASEAN countries have built dynamic, resilient and diverse economies. ASEAN has contributed a strong voice for peace, frank dialogue, disarmament and non-proliferation globally. The calls from this forum will summon for sustainable development and reminds us of the task in the coming time, the serious consequences from international conflicts, weather disasters, poverty and inequality currently present in Southeast Asia.

According to Mr. Guterres, the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the dreams of people around the world are more precarious than ever. Therefore, this is the time to accelerate and expand the implementation of the SDGs, solve the climate crisis and promote economies using renewable energy and green solutions.

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Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone. Photo: Le Anh Dung

Secretary General Kao Kim Hourn said that Vietnam has a far-sighted vision on this issue and that organizing a forum focusing on the future of ASEAN is very consistent with what ASEAN is pursuing in building the ASEAN Community Vision 2045. A forum like the ASEAN Future Forum 2024 will be very helpful in providing us with constructive and thoughtful thinking about what is ahead.

Speaking at the forum, Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone said that as ASEAN Chair 2024, Laos has determined the theme of the year "ASEAN: Enhancing Connectivity and Resilience" to build a more cohesive and resilient ASEAN. 

Looking towards the future of ASEAN, he emphasized that ASEAN needs to continue to uphold basic principles, while strengthening the cohesion, unity and central role of ASEAN.

At the same time, ASEAN must take control of its destiny by consistently maintaining the fundamental goal of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, security and cooperation to strengthen the ASEAN Community and promote competitiveness and the role of ASEAN.

Vietnam is ready to share experiences and learn from ASEAN partners

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Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung speaks at the first session of the ASEAN Future Forum 2024. Photo: Le Anh Dung

Vietnamese Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung described digital transformation and green transition as the most critical factors in the coming decade. He called for new digital institutions, new digital infrastructure and a new digital workforce.

Vietnam has many initiatives aimed at providing basic digital skills to its people, such as digital villages, community-based digital groups and open online courses, he said, affirming readiness to share experience with and learn from ASEAN counterparts regarding these initiatives.

The minister made it clear that the future is a digital ASEAN, and there is still a long road ahead. 

"The fast development is digital development. The sustainable development is green development. Digital transformation and green transformation will be the most important transformations in the coming decades," he said.

According to Minister Hung, the future of ASEAN is digital future. "We need a new digital institution, a new digital infrastructure, and a new digital human resources," he said.

Speaking at the discussion session on future directions to promote the ASEAN Community's sustainable, inclusive and self-reliant development, Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said that the ASEAN Future Forum is a great opportunity to exchange views and discuss the future of ASEAN, one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

The fast development is digital development. The sustainable development is green development. Digital transformation and green transformation will be the most important transformations in the coming decades.

Minister Nguyen Manh Hung said that, in the digital era, discussing the future of ASEAN is mostly referring to the digital transformation, to the digital ASEAN.

The theme of ASEAN in 2024, under the Chairmanship of Lao PDR is “Enhancing Connectivity and Resilience”. Connectivity and Resilience are the basic factors for digital future of ASEAN.

“The future of ASEAN is digital future. We need a new digital institution, a new digital infrastructure, and a new digital human resources,” he emphasized.

Sharing some views on digital cooperation, the Minister of Information and Communications said that digital transformation is more of an institutional revolution than a revolution of technologies. Therefore, we need a new legal framework, to ensure that digital businesses are legal and protected by law.

The development of digital technologies, especially AI, brings both opportunities and challenges for all of us. Decisions on how to use and regulate these technologies will play a decisive role in shaping our future.

"The digital legal system is now becoming more complex. We need to share our experience, and work together to develop a Digital Institutional Framework," the Minister suggested.

Regarding the development of new digital infrastructure, Minister Nguyen Manh Hung said that Vietnam is going to switch off 2G from September this year. All the mobile phones will be smart phone. And this will boost the digital transformation.

"5G and cloud computing are the key of a new digital infrastructure. Vietnam is very proud to holding annual ASEAN conference on 5G and cloud computing.," Minister Nguyen Manh Hung affirmed.

Submarine cables for regional connectivity is also a priority for the next decade. Vietnam is working with ASEAN partners on submarine cable projects, to secure our and ASEAN international connectivity.

The Minister said that ASEAN digital infrastructure should be super-high capacity, sustainable, green, smart, open and safe. Working together, we can make ASEAN digital infrastructure one of the best.

Regarding the development of new digital human resources, the Minister stated that digital technologies will empower the people, but only if they have digital skills. Nearly 700 million citizens of ASEAN should have basic digital knowledge to become digital citizens.

According to him, this is very challenging, as more than 50 percent of ASEAN’s population are living in rural areas.

Vietnam has many initiatives to provide basic digital skills to the people, such as: digital village, digital team in every community, using digital platforms and massive open online courses (MOOC) for training. Vietnam is willing to share our experience, and to learn from ASEAN colleagues, on such initiatives.

"In the digital revolution, the future is not an extended line of the past. ASEAN members, mostly developing countries, by effectively leveraging the benefits of digital technologies, will have the potential for breakthrough development and become developed countries.

ASEAN countries share many similarities, and we will share more similarities in developing digital economy and digital society. The future of ASEAN is one digital ASEAN. And to build the digital ASEAN, we still have a long way to go. So, we need to foster our cooperation. To go far, we must go together," the Minister said.

Tran Thuong