: The majestic Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers converge in Phnom Penh providing mobility and sustenance for civilisation in this region for thousands of years.
The idealistic and the pessimistic great minds converged at this point in Cambodia for the first World Economic Forum at the ASEAN level in Cambodia providing at least three key takeaways for ASEAN 2.0 via Industry 4.0 for at least the next 50 years.
But before the takeaways, the context for appreciating the last and the next 50 years, gleaned and simplified from rigorous and engaging dozens of discourse sessions on and off stage.
For the last half century, stability through solidarity has brought peace and prosperity to where over 630 million ASEAN citizens now reside.
Yes, as any other parts of the world there are still inequalities, poverty, exclusions, marginalization and other “uncomfortable” things (in the words of forum Co-chair Wolfgang Jaman) to be discussed at such a prestigious and civilised meet.
But now, for three days both the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers again witnessed a pivotal point in the civilisational future of the region.
The new ASEAN will have to emerge to bring even more peace and prosperity and this time with a more inclusive and sustainable aspirations, operations and executions.
This ASEAN 2.0 will have the power it has never had much before.
A great sample of which had been witnessed at the confluence of the two rivers which had converged a diverse and select thought leaders from the corporate and economics to the civil service and civil society activists.
The old century was an ASEAN of G2G (government to government) mainly and a facilitation of B2B (business to business).
ASEAN 2.0 now have the P2P or people to people (which carries communities to communities with it) and an integration of networked and connected businesses unprecedented. Better yet, the sacrifices of the previous generations have given ASEAN 2.0 two valuable assets.
The first is the demographic fact that more than half of the 630 million citizens are young below 30 years old.
The second is the knowledge, expertise and know how that has been facilitated by peace and prosperity for five decades has largely settled the bread and butter issue enough for the platform to be ready for next wave of new knowledge, expertise, know-how and even intelligence.
The fact that young Tan Hooi Ling co-founder of Grab, sat as co-chair at WEF ASEAN 201, is in itself, a testimony of new breed entrepreneurship representing the new economy of ASEAN 2.0.
She is not alone.
About 70 per cent of young ASEAN citizens believe they will have increased prosperity and quality of life compared to the previous generation. Well, at least going by those engaged in an online survey by the World Economic Forum, the results of which was announced at this ASEAN meet.
While many concerns and uncomfortable issues were also raised, going by the spirit and togetherness of ASEAN, let’s take it all in stride and draw hope from 3 key takeaways.
1. ASEAN’s diversity works well in peace and prosperity. Inclusivity must continue to be priority.
The diversified ASEAN values and faith are all unified in solidarity for peace and prosperity.
But now we have better talents, expertise, technology, resources and connectivity to make inclusivity more exhaustive and reaching.
This is not about just about issues like poverty and the have and the have nots, but also about empowerment and self-actualisation. No family should go hungry matters. Gender empowerment at the executive level matters too. No one gets to be left behind in execution must be the ASEAN 2.0 red lined KPI.
2. The young are many and able with ready abilities to be better in industry 4.0. Yes, the values of respecting those older than us must still be treasured in ASEAN’s value system going forward.
But the good job done by Gen X and before, has ensured Gen Y and the Millennials are maturing and achieving earlier and earlier.
Bridging the generation gap productively and breaking barriers that stifle breakneck speed of innovation and creativity must be key to ASEAN 2.0.
3. Industry 4.0 is not ASEAN’s disruption but elevation as hub of global innovation and wealth creation
The figure of USD 1 trillion wealth creation was discussed as potential to be reached by 2026 if challenges like broadband penetration and connectivity issues become a national and better yet, regional agenda for change as espoused by a very passionate Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim, the leader of regional telecommunications giant, Axiata Group.
The speed of change is accelerating so much that national barriers must be cleared sooner for domestic platforms to be conducive to regional inter-connectivity to connect and inter-link wealth creation and innovation beyond nationalistic limitations.
As WEF ASEAN 2017 hands over the baton to Vietnam for 2018, the flow of Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers seem to flow even stronger.
It might be yours truly imagination, but regardless, water is believed to be sacred and purifying across all the diversified ASEAN values and faith.
A stronger tide might be fitting to the growing consensus of positives at this important meet at the meeting of the two great rivers of ASEAN civilisation.
It is sacred to many and the faith is growing stronger for the next 50 years of ASEAN.
A faith to finally unlock the struggles of over 500 years of colonisation subjugation.
Back to the great openness of our entrepreneurial and trade loving forefathers.
Whose wisdom brought the region the best of prosperity.
Whose industriousness court the best of global connectivity.
Whose diplomacy engages the best of diversity.
For a region that has built the greatness of the likes of Angkor Wat before, the fourth industrial revolution speed and connectivity are our enablers to leapfrog back to the pinnacle of success and we have the generation to achieve it.
Good bye WEF ASEAN 2017 Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Hello, Vietnam ...