Mastercard Report: Digital Commerce Opportunities in Asia Pacific Continue to be Challenged by the Digital DivideFebruary 27, 2019 | Singapore | By Barkha Patel
Universal access to marketplaces, digital payments, information and services are key to unlocking Asia’s next digital wave.
Rapid digitalization has fueled immense job opportunities and economic growth in Asia Pacific, but only a small proportion of the population enjoys the benefits of the digital economy. Despite tremendous growth in recent years, millions of people have not yet transacted over the internet due to a lack of access, an inability to make e-payments and inadequate education and training, according to a new report released today.
The report, entitled “The digitalization of commerce in Asia,” is the first in a three-part research program commissioned by Mastercard and produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to identify the challenges and opportunities brought about by the digital revolution.
Despite widespread smartphone adoption across Asia, more than 70 percent of people living in emerging markets such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos cannot fully participate in the digital economy. The lack of digital literacy and skills has marginalized segments of the population – such as the elderly and the poor – and limits the potential growth of digital commerce.
“While digital infrastructure opens up pathways to prosperity, it needs to be supported by inclusive growth. Governments in Asia have made strides in creating economic opportunities for those who can access digital technologies. The real challenge remaining is to bring the still-excluded online so to broaden digital ecosystems and improve the living and earning opportunities for many more people across urban and rural ecosystems,” says Rama Sridhar, Executive Vice President, Digital and Emerging Partnerships and New Payment Flows, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.
The report highlighted the need for governments and businesses to remain committed to continuing their investments in technology and infrastructure to unlock the benefits of digital commerce. More focus should be given to bringing the marginalized into the digital economy through training in technical and financial skills so that consumers can drive this transformation and workers can compete in a skills-based marketplace. Governments and businesses can also capitalize on data and analytics to gain new market insights and create new products and payments solutions to ensure greater financial inclusion.
The report underscored the need for policymakers to expand the benefits of digital commerce by taking steps to harmonize the regulatory environment in Asia. Boosting digital infrastructure and increasing cross-border trade has the potential to bolster ASEAN’s GDP by US$1 trillion by 2025. 
“As Asia moves to the next wave of the digital revolution, the public and private sectors need to come together to maximize each other’s strengths, knowledge, resources, and capabilities. This is critical to maintaining the health of the region’s digital ecosystem and ensuring no person gets left behind,” said Ms. Sridhar.
 Bain & Company, Empowering small and medium enterprises to build ASEAN’s digital future, September 2018, https://www.bain.com/insights/advancing-towards-asean-digital-integration/