THE high Internet and mobile penetration in Southeast Asia is something startups can look forward to, especially with the region getting ready to integrate its economy.
At the second Geeks on A Beach conference yesterday, industry insiders believe Southeast Asia is the right place to be and the ecosystems are ripe for startups.
Mon Ibrahim, Deputy Executive Director of the Department of Science and Technology’s Information and Communications Technology Office, cited that Asean is expected to be the ninth largest global economy by 2020 and the increasing economic health of these nations will lead to a steady rise in disposable income, which includes a rise in digital usage.
He also noted that these days, handsets are becoming more affordable while Internet connectivity is becoming more accessible, with establishments offering free WiFi for customers and governments recognizing the growth potential of areas that have reliable Internet connections.
Ibrahim said that Asean is already a global leader in digital adaption, with the population of Singapore and Malaysia already 95 percent online while the global average is 85 percent. As for mobile penetration, even the less developed Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam have a higher penetration of 90 percent than the global rate of 80 percent.
From 2010 to 2020, Ibrahim said the region will have 194 million new Internet users, 91 million of them will be from Indonesia alone.
Ibrahim said governments have taken stock of a World Bank report concluding a one percent rise in GDP for a 10 percent investment in broadband and three percent rise in GDP for a 10 percent investment in ICT. He said the boost to economic growth has led to extensive initiatives to make Asean connected as a region and have it recognized as a global ICT hub.
In the Philippines, the DOST-ICTO is working on a TV white space project, which will tap unused TV frequency to provide WiFi to rural areas that they will use to develop programs for disaster risk management, health and education.
Ibrahim also pointed out Asean’s advantage in having a young population. The region’s population can boast that 40 percent is young, higher than China’s 36 percent.
Its middle class is also expanding, making more of them available to use digital services and work on developing these.
He admitted that Asean has its share of challenges, such as political, logistical and infrastructure issues, buy assured that the opportunities available counterbalance these challenges.
Ibrahim was the keynote speaker in yesterday’s conference held at the Mövenpick Hotel Mactan.
He was joined by Jose Benjamin Fernandez, chief operating officer of Voyager Innovations and managing director of Smart E-money Inc., who spoke about being a geek in the corporate scene.
The state of Philippine startups was also discussed, as well as challenges and issues facing startups in Asia and worldwide. A panel discussed how startups could attract investors and a topic on failures, something startup founders could find themselves facing.
Today, breakout sessions for different tracks will be held for participants.
Geeks on a Beach gathers players in the Philippine startup scene and names in the world’s names in the field of technology. Yesterday, 307 participants registered for the event, 30 percent of them from other countries.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 22, 2014.