Gaby Poliman has always loved the idea of browsing through the supermarket shelves and the hustle and bustle of a traditional market. ‘I actually enjoy the shopping experience more than the actual products I end up buying’, she said.

But when the city government started imposing restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Jakarta, Indonesia, Poliman had to turn to online marketplaces for her daily needs. ‘The learning curve is not as steep as I thought it would be’, she said, ‘and now it has been almost a year that I do all my shopping online’.

As the global pandemic disrupted almost all economic sectors, ASEAN witnessed a surge in the use of digital services, including e-commerce, food delivery and online payment. In 2020, the region saw as many as 40 million first-time users of online market place like Poliman, across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand (Google et al 2020)

With more than 300 million internet users in the region and a dozen tech unicorns valued above USD 1 billion, the digital economy is a priority sector for ASEAN. On 12 November 2018, the ASEAN Economic Ministers signed the ASEAN Agreement on Electronic Commerce to drive economic growth and social development in the region. The move reiterates the region’s commitment to creating a digitally-enabled economy that is secure, sustainable and transformative.

On 23 October 2019, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communication Networks, Content, and Technology met with ASEAN senior officials in Vientiane, Lao PDR to discuss how to strengthen digital economy and connectivity cooperation between the two regions. The event covered the sharing of best practices from the EU’s Digital Single Market strategy, which also covers areas of common interest to ASEAN.

Facilitated by the Enhanced Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (E-READI), a series of workshops focusing on policy and regulatory research and training aims to promote the development of the ASEAN Digital Benchmarking Index as a tool to monitor the progress of relevant digital indicators. These trainings will also help enhance ASEAN capabilities in providing legal certainty and confidence in a digital environment.

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