Ministers, Experts Chart Asia’s Digitalization Pathway to Sustainable Post-COVID-19 Growth

ADBI News Release | 25 February 2021

Jakarta, Indonesia – Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Research and Technology Minister Bambang P. S. Brodjonegoro highlighted developing Asia’s potential to leverage COVID-19 accelerated digitalization to achieve greater sustainable and inclusive post-pandemic growth during an ADBI-University of Indonesia-Toshiba International Foundation policy dialogue.

Minister Sri Mulyani described how the region could take advantage of digitalization to address fiscal gaps and funding for “quality infrastructure” that can enable more equitable recovery and resilience. Minister Brodjonegoro explained the role digital infrastructure and skills development can play in enhancing economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

The ministers, together with other policy makers and experts led by ADBI Dean Tetsushi Sonobe, assessed COVID-19 digitalization and infrastructure growth trends in the region. They also discussed policies and financial mechanisms for harnessing new technology while mitigating associated risks to economic stability, consumer protection, and data privacy.

Key Quotes:

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance, Republic of Indonesia

“Sustainable and inclusive growth and development in Asia has been among the most exemplary achievements in the world. But, today, we are facing the COVID-19 pandemic, a really fundamental and big game changer, while the same traditional issues of climate change and also technology will continue to add challenges as well as opportunities…This pandemic is creating greater challenges to our ideas and goals for how Asia’s development can be sustainable and inclusive.”

“The solution to all these challenges is very clear. You have to build better infrastructure. You have to use technology in order to address these society gaps or digital gaps and that’s why accessibility and affordability are becoming very critical. That means public financing is also very critical. You have to mobilize financing which comes from private as well as foreign capital…”

“Creating the Indonesia Investment Authority is one of the efforts by the government to attract more capital from private and foreign investors…Combining financing and technology is going to be another one of the possible solutions. Digital technology is providing huge opportunity, unlimited opportunity from the financing point of view.”

Bambang P. S. Brodjonegoro, Minister of Research and Technology, Republic of Indonesia

“When we talk about infrastructure, we usually talk about basic technology only, such as water and sanitation, and maybe connectivity and electricity. But, today, after COVID-19, we have to define telecommunications infrastructure as basic technology…Then, we need to utilize that infrastructure for some basic activities like communication, health, even agriculture, and e-commerce and also to improve our efficiency in manufacturing. To do that, we need to strengthen human resources in digital technology as well as to strengthen our domestic ICT (information and communication technology).”

“We need to make sure that our policies will upgrade our economic sustainability, social sustainability, and environmental sustainability at the same time. If we just focus on one of those sustainability factors, you can only, for example, deal with economic problems but are forgetting that economic sustainability cannot be maintained without social as well as environmental issues and also the other way around.”

“What kind of infrastructure do we need to aim for in the near future, after COVID-19? Of course, digital infrastructure will be the key.”

Tetsushi Sonobe, Dean, ADBI

“Sustainable and inclusive development and resilience are urgent issues in this difficult time and they will inevitably be recurrent ones too. Quality infrastructure investment will not just enable a strong recovery in the short run but also promote environmentally sustainable development in the long run across Asia and the Pacific.”