ASEAN’s digital economy projected to hit $1tn by 2030 (NIKKEI Asia)

The digital economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is on track to grow to $1 trillion by 2030, as millions of new internet users fuel online businesses in fields including e-commerce and virtual finance, says a new Google-led report.

Released on Wednesday, the annual report on digital trends in the 10-country bloc published by the U.S. technology giant, Singapore state investor Temasek and consultancy Bain & Co., said 40 million new internet users came online this year within the region.

That raised internet penetration in ASEAN to 75%, with eight in 10 of the new users having bought something online at least once.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, 60 million new digital consumers have been added to the bloc’s internet economy, with 20 million joining in the first half of the year alone, the report highlighted — contributing to a total digital consumer population of 350 million.

“Pre-pandemic it was our metro areas across the region that had, no surprise, the highest connectivity rates and it’s also where we saw online consumerism taking place for the most part,” said Stephanie Davis, vice president for Google Southeast Asia at an online briefing for the report.

“What we see are those who are consuming for the first time are actually coming more and more from non-metro areas,” she continued. “In fact, that was the majority in 2020 and an even larger majority in 2021, so we see this urban-rural divide beginning to close.”

The findings laid out in the report set the stage for years of rapid growth for ASEAN’s internet unicorns — startups worth $1 billion and more — like superapp providers Grab and GoTo, as well as for Southeast Asia’s largest listed company, Sea Group.

Collectively, the three firms dabble in various areas of e-commerce and financial technology — segments of digital businesses that are poised to boost the value of ASEAN’s internet economy in the coming decade, according to Google’s report.

The report was produced after online surveys with some 9,400 participants from July to August in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, as wells as polls with around 3,000 respondents who represented merchants in August.

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10 November 2021