Technological expansion facilitated a globalized community that improved industry and revolutionized society. There are, however, inconsistencies with the level of technological innovation that each country receives. Further inequalities in the field of technology exacerbate issues such as poverty and advancements in education and medicine. Many organizations make goals to advance the utilization of technology and work on economic improvement in Asia.
The Asia Foundation
One prominent organization that provides an inclusive environment for addressing issues related to gender equality, the environment and economic improvement in Asia is the Asia Foundation. The Asia Foundation began making an impact in the world in 1954 when several members from different sectors of society including leaders of corporations, university presidents and writers united to develop the unique organization.
The international nonprofit works primarily in the Asia-Pacific region through its 18 offices as well as its Washington, D.C. office and its headquarters in San Francisco, California. In 2021, the programs of the Asia Foundation provided direct support valued at $82.7 million.
The Upskilling Initiative
On September 9, 2022, the Asia Foundation announced its partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Office of the Trade Representative to begin the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) Upskilling Initiative. Participants include Brunei, India, Indonesia and the Philippines among others. The IPEF is a program that began in May 2022. The program hopes to facilitate economic improvement in Asia to become more connected, resilient, environmentally friendly and fair. The Upskilling Initiative is one way in which the program begins economic improvement in Asia through the implementation of digital skills training for women and girls.
The intention of the project is to expand the middle class by allowing women and girls the opportunities that promote this goal. The initiative is beneficial primarily because it includes partnerships between nonprofit organizations such as the Asia Foundation, governments such as the United States of America and U.S.-based companies such as Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. These private businesses will arrange digital skills improvement opportunities in IPEF countries through 2032. Concrete skills include training in innovative areas like artificial intelligence, cyber-security, business development and digital literacy and content creation.
Digital Literacy and the Economy
Increasingly, the ability to utilize technological resources relates to the improvement of the economy, which is why many organizations throughout Asia emphasize digital skills improvement as one step in economic improvement in Asia. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), digital literacy falls for those populations that are rural or those in the population minority, and digital literacy is lower for least developed countries in Asia.
Many young people in Asian countries state that digital literacy assists in skills development and education. Examples of the shortcomings of the lack of digitalization include the fact that 61% of South Asians do not use the internet despite installed infrastructure. Likewise, inequalities exist. For example, while Singapore experiences a high level of digital inclusiveness, more than 150 million people throughout South-East Asia are not able to use certain types of technologies. South-East Asia receives a ranking of fifth out of seven regions around the world for digital inclusiveness due to low scores on affordability and digital literacy.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rate at which the world uses technology to facilitate interactions among various communities. Economic growth in Asia and Southeast Asia is improving significantly with digitization with countries such as the Philippines and Malaysia leading the increase in e-commerce retail. The process reveals new opportunities, especially for the younger generation.
With continued input from partnerships such as the Asia Foundation and the U.S. Department of Commerce, countries in Asia will continue on the journey to improve the lives of the Asian population, especially women and young girls, to become a key player in the world economy.
– Kaylee Messick