QR codes for the 'LeaveHomeSafe' COVID-19 contact-tracing app are seen outside a shopping mall at the first day of a vaccine passport roll out, Hong Kong, 24 February 2022 (Reuters/Tyrone Siu).

Author: Lurong Chen, ERIA

Digitalisation — the use of digital technologies and digital-enabled solutions in socio-economic activities — has triggered global changes that are wider and less predictable than ever before. With digitalisation, the world economy is set to become better connected, smarter and more efficient. Accelerating digital transformation is key to unleashing Asia’s potential in global competitiveness and long-term development and is a core component of the region’s policy package for post-pandemic recovery.

Despite ongoing recessionary drag from the pandemic, digital solutions provide an effective alternative for services and business activities in the face of government measures to limit mobility and empower people and businesses to grasp new market opportunities. Within two years, more than 600 million e-commerce users entered the online market, driving the world’s total e-commerce revenue up by nearly 25 per cent from 2019 to 2020 and 17 per cent from 2020 to 2021.

Markets for online services — particularly education and food delivery — expanded quickly, thanks to higher-than-expected growth of digital platforms. The size of the market has increased by nearly 50 per cent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the world’s total revenue from these services reached US$466 million by the end of 2021.

There is also evidence that COVID-19 has accelerated the transformation towards a cashless society. Among ASEAN’s population of 680 million, half now use digital payments to pay for products and services.

The internet has become an integral part of daily life. Especially during the pandemic, online solutions have efficiently substituted offline practices in many areas — from doing business online to working and studying from home. This has changed people’s mindsets on digitalisation.

But many consumers and producers experienced hardship during the pandemic, not only from health threats caused by the virus, but also because …continue reading