“Governments In Southeast Asia Are Abuzz With Digital Transformation Activities. The Energy Is Palpable. And Compelling.”

Southeast Asia is abuzz with Digital Government Activities; We’re Proud to be a Part

Reading Time: 6:47 minutes

By U Chee Lioy — Industry Cluster Lead – Public Sector, SAP SEA

A recap: My ruminations

Earlier this year, I highlighted the importance of a down-to-earth approach to digital government and smart cities. Of the need to find role models and adapt from them. As that can help governments transform even when it looks daunting – scale- and cost-wise.

I also emphasized three goals every digital government should aspire to: Whole of Government HR and Finance, Smart Cities, and Taxation. Each of these is a critical ingredient for nations to reap the full potential of digital economies.

I am heartened to say I see progress in both areas. Some are on a scale wide enough to be reported by media outlets. Others I observe from my interactions with customers across the region. And I am encouraged that the regional government officials I met are committed to the transformation some with high aspirations and drive that is encouraging. Their sole vision and mission is to serve their people to benefit from better healthcare, education, transport and eCommerce – among other goals. A true public servants’ spirit!

Further reflections: Developments in Southeast Asia

Observations of the developments in Southeast Asia prompted further thoughts:


Singapore overtook U.S. to become the most competitive nation in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. The country ranks first in terms of infrastructure, health, labor market functioning, and financial system development. Its macroeconomic stability also ranks highly. The nation scored 84.8 out of a possible 100, clinching the top spot in the ranking of 141 economies.

Singapore also earned the accolade of the smartest city in the world – according to the IMD Smart Cities Index published by Swiss business school IMD and the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

This is no coincidence. Singapore has always placed high emphasis on strong economic fundamentals. The country consistently invests in productivity-enhancing infrastructure, for example, as part of its Smart Nation program. Singapore also has in place a series of educational and training initiatives to ready its people for quality jobs and so that there is a manpower pipeline to support growth. Its commitment to a credible armed forces and transparent institutions of law and order has ensured decades of security and stability for Singapore in a volatile world.

SAP takes pride in being a strategic partner to the Singapore Government. We are gladdened by Singapore’s accolades as it’s also a testament that we are heading in the right direction with this nation-state. Having solidly established ourselves in Healthcare and Higher Education this year while continuing to build our stronghold in Defense and Public Security, we reaffirm our commitment to journey hand-in-hand with the Singapore Government.


Like many other governments, Thailand is making affirmative efforts towards becoming a digital and data-driven government. Its Finance Ministry recently announced three blockchain projects spearheaded by four agencies, in co-operation with Krung Thai Bank. These projects – which will boost efficiency and reduce fraud – involve issuing value-added tax (VAT) refunds for tourists, government procurement of goods, and the issuance of scripless savings bonds.

Thailand has also taken a big step towards a national digital ID. Its National Digital ID Company Limited (NDID) joined hands with key partners and signed a cooperation agreement titled “We are ready for Thailand Digital ID”. The ID system is linked across various agencies. It employs blockchain technology to make it secure, transparent and easy to monitor.

These efforts encourage us. SAP has been playing an enabling role in helping different agencies shape their digital journeys. We play an active advisory role, for example, in the working committee run by the Training Professional Qualification Institute that studies the future workforce. We have some great partnership with some key agencies this year and is looking forward to continuing the journey together with Thailand in creating a digital economy enabled by a future ready government.


The Malaysian government has been making many positive moves to drive digital transformation across all sectors in Malaysia, including small-medium enterprises (SMEs). Recently, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) chose a logistics start-up from Singapore as its cross-border eCommerce initiative partner to help drive Malaysia’s National eCommerce Strategic Roadmap. The intention is to help Malaysian SMEs grow abroad by providing cross-border logistics solutions which can deliver their products throughout Southeast Asia.

Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade and Industry also recently called on Japanese investors to leverage Malaysia’s push for digital transformation. The government developed several options to help them capitalize on Malaysia’s digitization ambitions including setting up operations in the country and obtaining the MSC Malaysia status.

These efforts demonstrate Malaysia’s determination to become a digital nation. SAP is dedicated to continuing our part in this journey, especially in workforce development where seeds have been sowed.


Vietnam has been enjoying a high growth rate. The nation’s record expansion has exhibited few signs of slowing, with real GDP growth exceeding 6% for the past decade – an accomplishment only a small number of emerging markets have achieved. Not resting on its laurels, the Vietnam government made resolute plans to accelerate Industry 4.0 – recently signing Resolution 52 which will drive dynamic participation in the fourth industrial revolution.

There are robust targets under this resolution. By 2025, Vietnam strives to maintain its position in the top three ASEAN countries in the Global Innovation Index (GII) rankings – building the digital economy to account for 20% cent of GDP. These goals necessitate a strong labor force capable of serving the demands of a digital economy.

SAP is proud to be playing an active part in driving Vietnam’s Industry 4.0 objectives. We have been helping youths to prepare for the digital future through programs such as the ASEAN Data Science Explorers and SAP University Alliances. Our recently announced collaboration with UNICEF Vietnam to train their students will accelerate these efforts. It will be an exciting journey partnering Vietnam’s government in their journey in enabling a digital economy.


In 2017, the Indonesian government launched a movement towards 100 smart cities as of its efforts to improve public services. This movement is taking shape.

The Gerakan Menuju 100 Smart City 2019 event unveiled 100 cities and regencies that now have a master plan to develop the smart city concept in their respective regions. 75 cities and regencies also showcased the results of their smart city implementations in the exhibition component of the event.

The government understands that digital literacy is a key factor towards smart city success. To that end, it has initiated efforts to accelerate the smart city campaign – including a recent Smart City Technical Training involving selected State Civil Apparatuses from 6 districts, 2 cities and one ministry. It also recognizes the need for the right technologies and the right partners. SAP is happy to be a part of this journey with Indonesia.


The Digital Philippines plan – which include programs towards a digital government, a digital workforce, and digital communities – is well underway. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is stepping up efforts to advance the country, including free public Wi-Fi and faster, more affordable data connection.

This news follows the launch of its E-Government Masterplan (EGMP) 2022 in June this year, which centers on open governance through digital transformation of basic services – which entails citizen-centric services as well as supporting and enabling SMEs.

For example, it is looking to transform manual and agency-centric way of doing things, to an ICT-enabled and customer-centric way. This means workflows that track details of how work is performed, who performed it, and when it was performed. With real-time tracking, the transacting public will know the status of their requests at any given point in time. This level of transparency and accountability will transform bureaucracy into a service-oriented. With our first win in one of the agency in moving towards cloud analytics, we are looking forward to more partnership in shaping Digital Philippines.

The region is abuzz with digital government activities

Governments in Southeast Asia are abuzz with digital transformation activities. The energy is palpable. And compelling.

It’s exciting to witness these activities driving the realization of each nation’s digital government and smart city ambitions. I’m exhilarated to be a part of this journey, together with SAP continuing to play a key enabling role. I am also thankful that i am working with a great team with great leaders and co-workers, looking forward to a great 2020. Wishing all my friends and colleagues a great great year ahead!

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