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Panellists speak during a session on ‘The Asean Dream’ at the World Economic Forum on Asean yesterday in Phnom Penh. SIKARIN THANACHAIARY/WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

Youth keying into digital economy

Southeast Asia’s youthful population is embracing the internet and rapidly connecting to the digital economy, creating enormous potential for economic growth throughout the region, panellists at the World Economic Forum on Asean said yesterday.

Addressing a panel discussion on “The Asean Dream”, Kao Kim Hourn, the minister attached to the prime minister of Cambodia, said that youth participation in the region’s development was imperative as they represent such a large portion of the population.

“The youth need to participate in the future of the region and they need to consider how they dream the region will be [in the future],” he said. He added that technology is providing youth opportunities to help their countries and the region develop.

“Technology is developing very fast and it creates new opportunities and a chance to grow,” he said. “Youth need to recognise this potential and try to seize the opportunity.”

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than half the population of the 10 countries that make up Asean is under 30 and the region has the fastest growing internet users in the world.

The number of people with internet access is growing by 124,000 every day, and will continue to grow at this pace for the next five years.

Anthony Fernandes, group CEO of AirAsia, said increasing connectivity throughout the region could accelerate economic development and provide higher skills employment opportunities for younger generations. He added that the development of technology provided a chance for Asean youth to pursue their own ideas and expand on them for the benefit of their country and the entire region.

When asked about how young people in Asean could succeed and achieve their dreams, Fernandes encouraged them to find their strengths and start their venture by focusing on the advantages provided by their own countries.

“Be good in your own country and then you have the ability to grow outside and expand to the 700 million [population of the regional] market,” he said.

Cambodia is hosting the World Economic Forum for the first time. The three day regional summit, which opened yesterday, is being held in Phnom Penh under the theme, “Youth, Technology and Growth: Securing Asean’s Digital and Demographic Dividends”.

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