ASEAN leaders agree to develop ASEAN ICT Master Plan by 2010

October 24, 2009 11:56 am 

By Faye P. Velasco

CHA-AM, Hua Hin, Thailand, Oct. 24 – The 10 heads of state and government of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) today agreed to create a high level task force that will study the regional bloc's internal and external connectivity.

The ASEAN High Level Task Force will also be tasked to develop an ASEAN Master Plan on regional connectivity.

In line with the 15th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits theme of ''Enhancing Connectivity, Empowering People,'' the ASEAN leaders issued today a joint statement on ASEAN Connectivity.

The ASEAN leaders discussed the concept of ASEAN connectivity as they noted that the ASEAN is located at the crossroads of an economically vibrant and growing region, bounded by developed and emerging economies of India, Japan and Republic of South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.

Thus, ASEAN has the potential to physically anchor itself as the transportation, information and communication technology and the tourism hub of the region.

ASEAN's 10 member-countries include Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

The three-day meeting started on Friday at a Thai beach resort. The meeting also includes leaders of China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The Asean leaders' statement noted that enhancing intra-regional connectivity within ASEAN and its sub regional grouping would benefit all the member states through enhanced trade, investment, tourism and development.

They also noted that as all of the overland transport -linkages will have to go through the mainland South East Asian countries of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar, where these countries stand to benefit the most through infrastructure development and the opening up of remote inland and less-developed regions.

All these efforts, they said, would significantly narrow the development gap within ASEAN.

On top of the tangible economic benefits of the ASEAN Connectivity, the linkages created would intensify and strengthen ASEAN Community-building efforts in terms of enhanced cooperation and integration and through people -to-people contacts as well.

The ASEAN leaders said that the concept of ASEAN Connectivity would also complement the ongoing regional efforts to realize a people-oriented ASEAN Community by 2015 with a focus on fostering a sense of shared cultural and historical linkages.

The leaders agreed that to be able to achieve this, it is vital to complete the physical road, rail, air and sea linkages within ASEAN.

Development of infrastructure and multi-modal transport projects such as inter alia, the ASEAN Highway Network and the Singapore-Kumming Rail Link, must be fasttracked in parallel with addressing software related issues within relevant existing work plans of ASEAN.

Noting the importance of the Internet in business, education, and development, the leaders agreed that it is also crucial-to complete the ASEAN ICT Masterplan in 2010 to enhance intra-regional information and communications technology linkages.

They also agreed that the deepening and widening of connectivity in the region will reinforce ASEAN's position as the hub of the East Asian region, which can further be strengthened through realizing the potentials of a broader connectivity in the longer term with its partners in the region.

They also agreed to seek the support of their dialogue partners and other international agencies and development partners to realize the vision of ASEAN Connectivity, including the establishment of infrastructure fund for ASEAN.

ASEAN must also explore ways to effectively capitalize on existing cooperation funds for infrastructure development for ASEAN , the leaders' statement said.

RMA/FPV

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