With the increased rate of mobile connectivity, more households have access to a mobile phone than clean water, and digital adoption, over 50% of the world’s population is now online, has created many unique opportunities and challenges for different countries. Countries that have accelerated their investment and adoption of digital technology are poised to reap significant economic benefits. A case in point is Australia, where the digital economy will be worth 7% of GDP by 2020.

Concerning South-East Asian countries, the situation is somewhat mixed. Singapore is the clear leader in digital adoption and innovation, being classified as a stand-out, together with New Zealand, UK and UAE. Malaysia is currently in a transition between break-out and stand-out. At the same time, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, while scoring relatively low on their Digital Evolution Index, are rapidly gathering momentum and are classified as break-outs. An interesting outlier is Thailand, classified as a watch-out. The country has a higher Digital Evolution Index score than the previous three countries but is moving very slowly and risks falling further behind.

Some of the reasons for the above discrepancies are: inappropriate Government policies, low awareness amongst business and public leaders and inadequate infrastructure.

Anecdotal evidence, based on the author’s discussions with over 200 senior leaders and professionals, points to a very low level of familiarity with Emerging Technologies and their impact on society and business. It is interesting to note that while familiar with the technologies themselves, technology professionals found it difficult to understand their applications to achieve organisational goals. Business professionals, on the other side, once they know the basics, can foresee the potential benefits. This situation was consistent across all age groups and levels of seniority.

The levels of Digital Evolution are relatively closely correlated with the countries’ rankings in the Global Cybersecurity Index. Singapore tops the list, while Malaysia is a close 3rd. Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines are in the middle. Thailand again is an outlier, but in a positive sense this time. Despite its low Digital Evolution Index score, it is ranked No 20 in the Cybersecurity Index out of 165 countries.

The Global Cybersecurity Index is one of the inputs into the Cybercrime Attractiveness Index, developed by Meta Business Systems/MBS Academy. The index measures how attractive a country is to cyber-criminals based on the size of its capital markets and how well its digital assets are protected. The index for the same South-East Asian countries is shown below. As can be seen, Singapore, while the largest market, is less attractive than Indonesia, which can be considered a “lower hanging” fruit.

Conclusion

While the level of awareness concerning Digital Technology is steadily increasing, the majority of the white-collar workforce, at all levels of seniority and education, is unaware of the potential benefits and risks. This situation exists in all countries in the region, starting with Singapore, the stand-out, and finishing with Thailand, the watch-out.

To further increase Digital Evolution Index, it is imperative that Government and private organisations provide awareness training on Emerging Technologies and associated risks. This training should start at the CxO and Board Director level and permeate all levels in an organisation, particularly amongst employees from non-technical backgrounds. Expressly, about cybersecurity, awareness training must be provided to any employee that has access to the corporate network.

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