CNBC Debate: Resetting Asia: Technology, Investment, and Sustainability

Friday, 18 September 2020, 8:45 am - 9:45 am


The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping economies across Asia and the Pacific. Social and economic inequalities have been laid bare. A picture of a more sustainable future, with lower CO2 emissions and cleaner air, has been sharpened. And across
economies, technology and innovation are transforming the delivery of products and services by the private sector and governments.

The CNBC Debate asked what role technology can play in propelling Asia’s recovery and smart rebuilding while embracing sustainability. How can technology be used to make recovery faster and inclusive? How can the private sector, government, and
multilateral institutions ensure that this recovery is sustainable and inclusive?

Panelists agreed the COVID-19 crisis has led to a rapid increase in the adoption of digital technologies across Asia and the Pacific, creating opportunities to integrate new approaches to addressing longstanding development issues such as the “digital divide” and unequal access to finance, education, health, and other social services. Leveraging new technologies to ensure investment in infrastructure is of high quality will also be critical.

The Debate examined two approaches to financing the region’s digital transformation. The first focused on mobilizing funds for technology startups and growth stage companies. An example is ADB Ventures, a new venture capital investment fund led by
ADB that is investing in highly scalable, high-impact technology businesses in areas such as agritech, fintech, healthtech, and clean energy to enable them to expand and offer their services across the region. The second was to expand domestic resource
mobilization through modernization of tax policy and efficiency improvements in tax administration, along with efforts to continue widening and deepening domestic capital markets, including through regional cooperation to share knowledge and experience.

As recovery and rebuilding proceed, panelists agreed on the importance of creative approaches to ensuring technology is used to promote inclusion and gender equality, to improve resilience and diversify economies, to expand access to education and skills
training for the digital future, and to support greener polices and investments that lead to sustainable long-term solutions to climate challenges. 


Masatsugu AsakawaPresident of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Chairperson of ADB’s Board of Directors

Masatsugu Asakawa is the President of the Asian Development Bank and the Chairperson of ADB’s Board of Directors. He was elected President by ADB’s Board of Governors and assumed office on 17 January 2020.

Before joining ADB, he served as Special Advisor to Japan’s Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and has a professional career that spans nearly 4 decades in diverse fields such as international finance, development, and taxation at the Ministry of Finance.

Mr. Asakawa also worked for international organizations as the Chief Advisor to ADB President between 1989 and 1992, senior staff at the Fiscal Affairs Department of the IMF (1996–2000), and Chair for the Committee on Fiscal Affairs at Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2011–2016).

Elina KalkkuGovernor for Finland, ADB; and Under-Secretary of State, Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Finland

Prior to her current position, Ms. Kalkku served as director-general of the Department of Americas and Asia at Finland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs from 2005-2015, and in 2000-2005 as director of the Security Policy Unit at the Political Department of the same ministry.

She has served abroad at the Finnish embassies in Madrid and Brussels as well as at the Finnish mission to the UN in New York, and to NATO in Brussels. She has worked with issues related to security policy and crisis management, the EU and the UN, transatlantic relations and Asian affairs, the Middle East, trade promotion, and development cooperation. She was member of the Finnish delegation to the UN Security Council during Finland's latest membership turn.

She also worked as a diplomatic advisor to the foreign minister in Helsinki. She holds masters and licenciate of law degree from the University of Helsinki in Finland, specializing in international law.

Mark MobiusFounding Partner, Mobius Capital Partners

Mark Mobius is a pioneering investor and has actively managed emerging market funds since 1987. Prior to launching Mobius Capital Partners, Mr. Mobius was at Franklin Templeton Investments for more than 30 years, most recently as executive chairman of the Templeton Emerging Markets Group. During his tenure, the group expanded assets under management from US$100 million to over US$40 billion and launched a number of emerging market and frontier funds focusing on Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

His career and influence have earned him numerous industry awards. Mr. Mobius has also been a key figure in developing the international policy for emerging markets.

Alex RusliChief Executive Officer, Digiasia Bios

Alex Rusli cofounded PT Digiasia Bios, a consolidated fintech holding that offers digital payment, credit, and remittance services in Indonesia. He has also invested in and actively guides numerous startups exploring new business models. From 2012-2017, he was the CEO of Indostat Ooredoo, the second largest telecommunications operator in Indonesia. Mr. Rusli is a current board member of PT Unilever Indonesia, Tbk, contributing in the transformation of fast-moving consumer goods distribution impacted by the digital wave.

His other roles include advisor for Crescent Point for Indonesia, expert staff to the Indonesian Minister of Finance for the national tax system, and independent commissioner at PT Linknet, Tbk. Mr. Rusli has a PhD in information technology from Curtin University of Technology, Australia.

Marife B. ZamoraBoard Director, PLDT, Inc; former Chair, Convergys Philippines

Marife B. Zamora is board director of PLDT, Inc; chair of the board of Willis Towers Watson Insurance Brokers, Inc.; president of ArZam Logistics Inc.; board member of Imperial Homes Corporation; member of the board of trustees of the Asian Institute of Management and ABS-CBN Foundation. She is cofounder of the Filipina CEO Circle and also president of the University of the Philippines Sigma Delta Phi Alumnae Association.

She was chair of Convergys Philippines and served as its first country manager, setting up its first contact center in 2003 and leading its growth as the country’s largest private employer. Currently she is managing director for Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa for Convergys Corporation. Prior to this, Ms. Zamora served as managing director of Headstrong Phils., a digital technology consultancy and outsourcer. She was with IBM Philippines where she held a number of sales, marketing, and management positions during her 18-year tenure with the company.

Ms. Zamora studied at the College of the Holy Spirit in the Philippines, the University of the Philippines, and the University of Pennsylvania in the United States.


Dan MurphyCorrespondent, CNBC

Dan Murphy is a CNBC correspondent based at the Nasdaq Marketsite in Dubai. He follows news across major markets in the Middle East, providing the CNBC audience with a deeper focus on the regional business, finance, and geopolitical story. A multiplatform reporter and presenter, he appears on CNBC’s suite of international programming, including Squawk Box, Street Signs, and Capital Connection. He also regularly writes for CNBC.com.

Before launching the CNBC Bureau in Dubai, Mr. Murphy spent 3 years as a correspondent for CNBC in Singapore. In this role, he interviewed some of Asia’s most respected corporate leaders, including Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong, DBS Group CEO Piyush Gupta, and Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong. An experienced moderator, he has also appeared on stage to host panel discussions at major investment conferences and industry events, including the Milken Institute Summit, the Milken Young Leaders Circle, Credit Suisse Megatrends, Innovfest Unbound, Millennial 2020, the Singapore Fintech Festival, and the SGX Ideas Exchange.

Before joining CNBC, Mr. Murphy was a reporter and business anchor at Sky News. His live coverage of major news events in the field has also seen his work feature on CNN, Fox News, Bloomberg and Sky News UK.