The ASEAN Digital Ministries Meeting introduced the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025 (ADM) in pursuit of its vision of ASEAN as the leading digital community and digital economic bloc, powered by secure and transformative digital services, technologies, and ecosystems. The ADM complements the ASEAN Framework on Personal Data Protection and ASEAN Framework on Digital Data Governance, specifying eight desired outcomes and associated enabling actions to achieve this vision by 2025.
One of the targets of the ADM is the delivery of trusted digital services and prevention of consumer harm. The ASEAN digital economy is the fastest growing in the world—predicted to reach a value of USD 1 trillion by 2030. Comprehensive regulations, especially regarding data protection and data governance in each ASEAN Member State, are needed to safeguard consumer rights and improve public trust during the digital boom in the region.
Data protection policies vary between ASEAN Member States. Most ASEAN Member States have personal data protection regulations in place, though in some cases these are scattered piecemeal through different laws and regulations (as in Indonesia and Vietnam). States that possess codified personal data protection laws should nonetheless consider improvements, such as providing clear provisions on transnational data transfer (the Philippines) and requiring notification in the event of a data breach (Malaysia).
The lack of a data protection framework is usually accompanied by blurred data categorization, with repercussions for other data-related policies including data localization, unclear provisions on data governance, and cross-border data sharing. Taken together, these issues hinder digital economic growth potential in the region. In the worst case, regulatory gaps may also attract corrosive investment that could hurt consumers in the long term. Two governance gaps are the tendency to enact data localization policies among ASEAN Member States and the lack of a regional regulatory framework on digital infrastructure investment.
To eliminate the identified governance gaps, ASEAN Secretariat should engage in awareness- raising initiatives on the relationship between digital infrastructure investment and data-related regimes through sectoral bodies or meetings, and should formulate a regulatory framework and guiding document for ASEAN digital infrastructure investment.