Stuart Kennedy
March 16, 2018

Data61 sharpens ASEAN focus

ASEAN

Data61 sharpens ASEAN focus

Adrian Turner: Turning Data61's gaze to Asia opportunities in tech

The sun is rising over digital-centric industries in our fast developing southeast Asian neighbors and CSIRO has launched a report that targets a piece of the action as the ASEAN middle class doubles out to 2020.

The agency also wants to look good in the local political stakes as Australia hosts an ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney this weekend which caps ASEAN-Australia week

CSIRO, through its Data61 appendage, has released a Sunrise Industries report that spruiks the benefits of cosying up to the digital boom to our immediate north.

The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) group has Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Brunei as members.

Australia is not a member of ASEAN, but has close ties to the group, where it sees a large market opportunity and something of a bulwark against China’s ever growing global aspirations.

At this weekend’s summit in Sydney Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will glad hand ASEAN leaders.

The Data61 report sees potential juicy pickings for Australia as the ASEAN middle class surges. The report quotes figures saying the ASEAN middle class will more than double from 2012 to 2020 reaching 400 million people, up from 190 million.

The sunrise industries included for analysis by Data61 include the usual suspects, such as artificial intelligence and autonomous systems; FinTech and RegTech; high value nutrition; next-gen energy storage and distribution; cyber security; health care and digital infrastructure and connectivity.

While the report gives a reasonable dive into how each of the seven nominated sunrise industries is performing in the ASEAN countries and the growth potential down the track, there’s precious little information on how Australian businesses can make hay from all that sunshine.

For a guide on how to drum up business in five of the ten ASEAN countries, it may pay to hop on over to Asialink Business which is offering free country starter packs for Australian businesses mulling going into that to make hay the Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Brunei as part of the ASEAN Week festivities.

There is one ASEAN sunrise sector where CSIRO at least fancies its chances, and that’s AI and automated systems.

“The AI and automated systems industry will be comprised of large and small companies that convert manual processes into automated processes,” the report said. “They will do so using robotics, sensory systems, machine learning, predictive analytics and AI.”

“Companies in this industry will supply services to practically all other industries, as automation has the potential to impact a wide range of industries and improve productivity across entire economies,” it says.

“Robotic automation has been identified as the major technology impacting the key ASEAN manufacturing industries of automotive and auto parts, and textile, clothing and footwear. Thai food and beverage company ThaiBev and Malaysian car manufacturer Proton, for instance, are aiming to introduce automation technologies in their plants.”

“Demand for AI is also likely to be high within the healthcare industry and the public sector. CSIRO’s AI and machine learning capability may prove useful to firms entering or expanding within the AI and automated systems industry,” the report said.

Data61’s sunrise report relays ever strengthening predictions that by 2050, the world’s economic centre of gravity will sit between China and India.

Indonesia especially is set to go large, with its 2060 GDP expected to hit more than $14 trillion to become the world’s fourth largest economy and about a third of the US projected 2060 GDP of about $48 trillion.

For those who want to hone in on Vietnam’s digital prospects, Data61 launched the first in a series of reports on Vietnam’s future digital economy.

This report also has a political backlight with Australia and Vietnam on Thursday inking a strategic partnership, 46 years after Gough Whitlam pulled the last of our troops out of the Vietnam War. Data61 has also launched a research project with the Vietnam government’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

According to Federal government presser on the strategic partnership, Australia and Vietnam now have two-way trade in excess of $11 billion and the partnership will ‘keep markets open and trade and investment flowing’.

“We will work across our partnership in defence, development, education, science and research to deepen our links and advance our cooperation,” says the statement.

In the ASEAN sphere, Data61 has got the hots for Vietnam. Its first report in the series, Vietnam Today, says Vietnam is Australia’s fastest-growing trade partner in the ASEAN region and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world with 6.4 per cent GDP growth a year.

As digital transformation grips the country, Vietnam’s IT industry is expected to contribute 8-10 per cent of its GDP by 2020.

Among the opportunities for Vietnam, the report lists a young and well educated population. The median age there is 30.4 years and literacy is high at 95 per cent. IT development has been prioritised by the government through an IT Master Plan.

However, challenges loom as well with the report quoting International Labour Organisation warnings that that around 70 per cent of jobs in Vietnam are at high risk of being replaced through automation over the next twenty years.

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