Dialogue on Regional Cooperation in Promoting Digital Economy: Challenges and Way Forward

Digital economy comprises a broad range of economic activities that use digitized information and knowledge as key factors of production. The internet, cloud computing, big data, fintech, and other new technologies are used to collect, store, analyze, and share information digitally and transform social interactions. Digitalization of the economy creates benefits and efficiencies as digital technologies drive innovation, productivity, and fuel job opportunities and economic growth. The digital economy also permeates all aspects of society, influencing the way people interact and bringing about broad sociological changes.  

Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, geopolitical tensions, and fragility of global values chains have accelerated the sharp expansion of the digital economy in Asia with rapid innovations and broad applications across all sectors. The recent phenomenal growth of e-commerce in Asia is a case in point, where many Asian countries have become important buyers and sellers of goods and services online. Digital connectivity also offers a lot of potential in reducing trade costs by using ICT to link up markets and enter global value chains. In the area of finance, digital technology promotes financial inclusion in many developing Asian countries. As a result, investment in financial technology in Asia has expanded in various sectors such as payments, mobile, data and analytics, and regulatory technology.

Despite the many opportunities offered by digital economy, Asia has yet to fully realize the potentials of harnessing digital technology for sustainable development. The lack of national regulations and policies to support cross-border commerce and finance, and imbalanced digital economic development including ICT infrastructure, trade facilitation and logistics, and skills development remain key challenges. Concerted regional-level actions—through cooperation—can accelerate the realization of benefits from national efforts, as countries build synergies and complement one another.  Harmonizing regulations, aligning documents with international standards for interoperability, developing a regional broadband ecosystem, pooling of human and financial resources, and exchange of innovative ideas are but a few examples. The role of digital economy in the post-pandemic sustainable development is a priority of most countries and cooperation to promote is part of various regional initiatives. The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Digital Strategy 2030, endorsed in 2021, aims to be a catalyst for regional cooperation on digital technologies among its member countries, to promote regional competitiveness and growth. The Greater Mekong Subregional program is considering a proposal for enhanced cooperation on digital economy, leveraging upon the GMS cross-border e-commerce cooperation platform.   

This dialogue brings government officials, and experts from multilateral institutions, regional think tanks, and private enterprises to share challenges, insights, and experiences related to promoting the digital economy. It aims to facilitate discussions to build a resilient digital economy particularly in the Greater Mekong Subregion and the East and Central and West Asia regions, where all stakeholders can work together to achieve the long-term goal of more sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Chairperson: Hao Zhang, Deputy Country Director and Office-In-Charge, ADB Resident Mission in the PRC
15:00 – 15:10Opening Remarks

• M. Teresa Kho, Director General, East Asia Department, ADB
• Lu Jin, Deputy Director General, Department of International Economic and Financial Cooperation, Ministry of Finance, the PRC
15:10 – 15:40Keynote Presentation

• Research on Digital Economic Cooperation under Regional Frameworks, Xiaoqing Ji and Chong Liu, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics
• Building Digital Connectivity in GMS Sub-Region, Guanqi Zhou and Lei Zhang, Yunnan University
• Digital Divide and Policy Reforms for Promoting E-commerce in the CAREC Region, Qaisar Abbas, Chief of Research Division, CAREC Institute
15:40 – 16:55Panel Discussion on Regional Cooperation in Promoting Digital Economy

Moderator: Marzia Mongiorgi-Lorenzo, Principal Economist, East Asia Department, ADB

Subregional Programs
• Saad Paracha, CAREC Secretariat
• Yi Hong, Chief Expert, Yunnan Cross-border Digital Commerce Engineering Research Center

Private Sector
• Wei Liu, Senior Sustainability Scientist, Luohan Academy, Alibaba
• Yutong Zhang, Research Director, Institute of JD Economy and Development, JD
• Augustine Chiew, Global Senior Public Services Industry Expert, Huawei
• Xiaogang Zha, Director, International Policy Center, Tencent Research Institute, Tencent
• Jamie Ko, Director, Regional Public Affairs and Policy, Grab, Singapore
16:55 – 17:00Closing Remarks

Safdar Parvez, Advisor, East Asia Department, ADB

Digitalization in these Six Sectors can Boost Regional Cooperation in Central Asia

The COVID-19 pandemic showed the importance of digitalization in ensuring continuity of learning, business, and services. Cooperation among CAREC member countries is needed to further strengthen digitalization in the region. Photo: Deng Jia/ADB

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that digitalization can drastically improve services and expand opportunities, including for women and young people.

Integrating digital technologies can widen access to healthcare and education, and create better livelihood opportunities in agriculture, finance, trade, and tourism.

The CAREC Digital Strategy 2030 lays out a systematic approach to scale digital technology in the region to drive shared economic growth and sustainable development.

As the world grapples with an evolving ‘new normal’, digital technology remains pivotal. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that digitalization can drastically improve services and expand opportunities. Integrating digital technologies in trade, finance, and agriculture, for example, can create new jobs, including for women and young people. Recognizing this, the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program prepared a strategy to promote digitalization in its member countries.

What is CAREC?

The CAREC Program is a partnership for countries in Central Asia and beyond to promote sustainable development through regional cooperation. Last year, ministers from CAREC’s member countries endorsed the CAREC Digital Strategy 2030 that identifies areas where they can collaborate to enhance digitalization across the region.

The CAREC Digital Strategy 2030 lays out a systematic approach to scale digital technology in the region to drive economic growth and human development. It provides a framework to build the necessary foundations that will enable digital solutions across the region. One of the initiatives under the Digital Strategy includes the #CARECStartupChallenge aimed to further encourage the integration of digital technology and ICT in member countries. A CAREC Start-up Ecosystem Development Hub is also planned to be a virtual platform for creative and innovative proposals in combating the negative impacts of COVID-19.

Here are six areas in which regional cooperation can help advance digitalization and improve the lives of citizens of CAREC countries:

A coordinated response to public health challenges and closer regional cooperation enabled by digitalization are crucial to recovering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Photo: Rahim Mirza/ADB

1. Healthcare

When the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person meetings challenging, patients were able to consult their doctors through telemedicine. This allowed them to access medical services while avoiding potential exposure to the coronavirus. But the benefits of this go beyond the pandemic – telemedicine also enables people to access medical advice without having to travel long distances. Citizens in some CAREC member countries can access health services in other countries with more developed health systems.

Communicable diseases can also be monitored with greater precision through digital technology. Early-warning systems can alert member countries to new variants of COVID-19 and other viral threats, and digitalization will allow governments to trace the movements of disease and share critical health data more efficiently. Effective health data management through vaccination e-certificates and a unified registry of vaccinated individuals, for example, can help the region recover more quickly from pandemics.

2. Learning and education

The COVID-19 pandemic initiated a huge shift to online learning. This has encouraged entrepreneurs to develop internet-based learning tools and has led to a boom in the edu-tech industry. Readership of e-books and journals available in digital libraries has also increased. These new tools allow for a more equitable form of education, as students who live in far-flung areas or who may not have the financial means to purchase physical education material can access them if internet connectivity is provided.

Learning and upskilling solutions are useful for people across age brackets. Working professionals can utilize online vocational training to increase their employability and introduce new skills into the labor market. The CAREC Digital Strategy proposes a CAREC Employment Service Platform that will create a unified regional labor market to share recruitment opportunities and career guidance. To share best practices, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has offered digital competence training, and Azerbaijan has proposed training for digital leaders and change managers in other CAREC countries.

Digitalization can help improve efficiency in agricultural production which will help to address food security in the CAREC region. Photo: Relisa Granovskaya/ADB

3. Agriculture

Most people in the CAREC region depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Digital solutions that increase farm yields by introducing efficient production management will benefit large populations. Digital platforms can improve value chains and agricultural trade. This will address food security and increase incomes in rural areas. Agriculture can be made more resilient to climate change and other risks when farmers can share best practices among networks of other farmers via web-based knowledge-sharing platforms.

For example, Pakistan, in October 2021 launched a pilot program “Digital Dera,” which enables farmers to remotely access free information and guidance from agricultural experts, on a range of issues relevant their livelihood, in their local language. Through Digital Dera, farmers can be empowered with information about the latest research in the agricultural sector, from crop improvement techniques to practices for adapting to climate change. Such initiatives can be shared across CAREC countries to expand knowledge and experience in digital solutions for the agriculture sector.

4. Finance

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) perennially face high capital costs as a barrier to expansion. With the help of digital solutions, enterprises within the CAREC region can access a variety of financial services. These include online lending platforms where more favorable terms may be available to e-payment providers. Digital platforms provide vulnerable groups, including women, young people, and the elderly, avenues to expand their economic opportunities.

In this regard, Georgia has offered to share its experience on SMEs solutions for e-commerce. Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) has also proposed to help build a regional innovation and start-up ecosystem, and host training and networking for start-ups from across the region. Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic have also proposed to host a regional hub for CAREC start-ups, while joint incubation, acceleration, and training for start-ups were proposed by information technology (IT) Park, Uzbekistan. To drive growth in this area, CAREC countries can consider establishing a virtual tax-free regional IT zone for start-ups, SMEs, and information and communication technology (ICT) companies across the region.

5. Trade

Digitalization provides interconnected solutions for warehousing, transport, and delivery of goods based on regional and global supply chains. CAREC member countries can embrace cross-border e-logistics platforms to share paperless information and improve efficiency at checkpoints and borders by adopting automated payment systems for cargo movements. These platforms offer interconnected logistics solutions, which can improve trading networks. In this regard, Kazakhstan’s Zerde National Infocommunication Holding has offered to share its experience in mobile e-government services, intelligent transport, and its e-freight initiative.

Digitalization can help develop the tourism sector across CAREC and address existing challenges including the impact of the COVID-10 pandemic. Photo: Khatia Jijeishvili/ADB

6. Tourism

Tourism has been one of the most adversely affected sectors due to the pandemic. Digital tools can help to increase convenience for travelling tourists. By building linkages between stakeholders in the tourism ecosystem, digital platforms can be used to raise awareness of tourism destinations, and strengthen marketing and promotion using virtual reality technologies, for example. Future initiatives—such as a single CAREC e-visa and the use of national identification cards as travel documents for CAREC citizens—can also be planned, as can other portals to promote the region’s cultural heritage and food traditions. Digitalization can promote CAREC’s wealth of cultural resources around the world while enabling tourists to cross borders more quickly and easily.

This article is reproduced from Asian Development Bank.

CAREC Digital Strategy 2030: Accelerating Digital Transformation for Regional Competitiveness and Inclusive Growth

Chatbots Offer a New Lifeline to Address Domestic Violence

Digital technology is helping victims of domestic violence in Mongolia. Photo: ADB

As domestic violence increased during the pandemic, digital technology was used in innovative ways to help victims.

Domestic violence has been a shadow pandemic during the COVID-19 crisis. In Mongolia, where 58% of women have experienced some form of violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, cases increased by more than 40% in 2020, straining support services, including emergency hotlines.

As more people seek information and services online during the pandemic, urban and rural Mongolia followed the global uptrend in internet use. Facebook users, particularly, rose from 68% (January 2020) to almost 80% (January 2021) driven by Mongolians aged 25 to 45. This is the same demographic that police hotline records tagged as having the highest number of domestic violence cases reported.

One key obstacle to seeking help for domestic violence is the stigma associated with it. As a result, families already suffering from trauma further isolate themselves from help. Digital communication tools can address this particular need for confidentiality and anonymity.

Chatbots – computer programs designed to simulate conversation with human users, mainly over the internet – can be an important digital tool in the effort to help victims. They can be configured to provide social and legal information, and to do so around the clock, providing an opportunity to reach out to people in need and in situations of limited mobility. They are being used in Thailand, South Africa and other countries.

To ensure confidentiality, user details such as name, address, and other demographic details are rendered anonymous by the chatbots.

In Mongolia, chatbots use conversational artificial intelligence and are inbuilt with elemental deep learning techniques. They are integrated in Facebook Messenger, making them widely available.

While chatbots are most often used for routine customer service functions on the internet and are often criticized as being impersonal, this anonymity is a positive feature when helping domestic violence victims. The chatbot does not make any personal judgements and does not require uncomfortable conversations with another human.  

To ensure confidentiality, user details such as name, address, and other demographic details are rendered anonymous by the chatbots. While individual data are not accessible, a data management module helps to analyze the overall user data in a way that provides policymakers with insights to develop protection and response protocols.

Chatbots can be programmed to anticipate the information and referral needs of women and girls-at risk. However, if not fed with enough relevant data and controlled for quality, this tool can also lead to frustration. In the case of emergency response, the wrong advice could increase the risk.

In Mongolia, the chatbots were developed by a team of gender, legal, communication, and information technology specialists. The team went through data and spoke with domestic violence survivors to feed the chatbots with extensive content in the form of frequently asked questions: What do survivors have to prepare for? What are their legal options? What happens to their families when they ask for help?

The process is ongoing for this technology. While the chatbots recognize most of the questions, a small number can only be answered by a live person, a counselor.

Nonetheless, this digital technology has proven to be a lifeline for survivors of domestic violence. One user used the chatbot to prepare her rescue from an abusive relationship of nine years. The chatbot gave her information on when to leave, what to take, and how to contact emergency and counseling services. She and her four children reached the safety of a shelter during a strong COVID-19 wave. She used the chatbot precisely because it was anonymous, but also easily accessible through social media.

As next steps, the chatbots in Mongolia are integrating text messaging (SMS) to reach people in rural areas and without internet.

The use of technology such as chatbots is being shown to be an effective additional tool that countries can employ in the effort to address domestic violence and increase access to information and emergency and counselling services for survivors.

 Veronica Mendizabal Joffre

Veronica Mendizabal Joffre

Social Development Specialist, East Asia Department, ADB

Pinky Serafica

Pinky Serafica

Senior Communications Officer, Department of Communications, ADB

Arun Ramamurthy

Arun Ramamurthy

Principal Infrastructure Specialist (Digital Technology), East Asia Department, ADB

This blog is reproduced from Asian Development Blog.

A Smart Solution for Protecting River Ecosystems from Urban Pollution

For the Yangtze River Economic Belt to sustain growth, the region needs to address environmental issues, such as pollution in Xin'an River and other tributaries.

Cities can turn to integrated ICT solutions to better manage the environment, health and safety of their industrial parks and enterprises.


Huangshan City plays a critical role in protecting Xin’an River and other water ecosystems within the Yangtze River Economic Belt in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and in ensuring safe and clean water for 400 million residents. 

In 2019, the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), a multi-donor trust fund managed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), provided technical assistance to the city government to support the core aspects of a project that will upgrade sewerage and stormwater drainage facilities in Huangshan, a city in Anhui Province, to reduce pollution in the Xin’an River.

The CDIA technical team supplemented project preparation by introducing innovative and international best practices in water pollution management, including an environmental, health and safety (EHS) management system that also covers industrial parks and enterprises.

CDIA and the Huangshan government made their recommendations and technical roadmaps available online through a series of publications to guide project design and implementation.  

This is a summary of the publication Cost-effective Environmental Management: Networking ICT Solutions. It discusses the benefits of integrating information and communications technology (ICT)-networked systems with smart city data management platforms to improve environmental management and monitoring for industries and regulators alike.

Strategic Importance of Huangshan in Protecting Ecosystems

The Yangtze River Economic Belt is an environmentally focused economic development initiative covering nine provinces, including Anhui. The region is home to over 40% of the country’s population and contributes about 45% of the national economic output. Freshwater from the region provides drinking water for 400 million people. Qiandao Lake and the Xin’an River are the main sources of drinking water for 10 million residents in the Zhejiang Province.

Huangshan City lies some 100 kilometers south of the Yangtze River, in the southern part of Anhui. It is composed of three districts: Tunxi, Huangshan, and Huizhou; and four counties: She, Xiuning, Yi and Qimen. It has a population of 1.4 million. Its UNESCO World Heritage sites, which include Mount Huang or Yellow Mountain and the ancient villages of Xidi and Hongcun, draw more than 70 million tourists every year. However, the rapid growth of tourism, along with economic development, urbanization, and intensive agriculture have increased environmental pressures on the Xin’an River Basin and damaged water quality. The city urgently needs strong water management and sustainable green development to improve water quality and protect river ecosystems.

The city government pursued innovative approaches and integrated ICT in the design and implementation of the Xin’an River Project. CDIA provided technical assistance in the areas of first-flush stormwater pollution management; EHS management; climate change adaptation and mitigation; and ICT application. It enhanced the government’s understanding of the design, construction, operation, and maintenance requirements of suggested innovations. These joint efforts contributed to the approval of a $100 million loan for the project from ADB in December 2019. The project is also supported by a €50 million loan from German development bank KfW.

Integrating Data and Systems for Environmental Monitoring

CDIA helped rethink the project design for the ICT component and demonstrated the benefits of networked, real-time monitoring of industrial parks and manufacturing enterprises to reduce the risk of water and air pollution. It also highlighted the cost-effectiveness and the advantages of data sharing and integrating separate ICT systems into Huangshan’s Smart City platform. Doing so reduces the risk of information isolation in key environmental areas and helps improve monitoring and emergency response.

Under the original project design, four information systems will be developed: smart water conservancy system for Huangshan (as a whole), smart environmental monitoring system for Qimen County, and smart EHS systems for Huizhou District Industrial Park and She County Industrial Park.

The CDIA team reviewed the feasibility studies on the four systems, conducted its own technical analyses and site visits, and engaged with various stakeholders. Based on its findings, the team proposed that the four originally separate ICT programs should be linked, and Huangshan’s Data Resource Administration Bureau (DRAB) should lead the top-level design to establish a centralized, structured platform to assure policy compliance and resource sharing between the different systems. Specifically, any common functions shared by ICT systems at the implementation level should be integrated into one system, administered by the DRAB, and ultimately integrated into Huangshan’s Smart City platform.

The integration of the project’s ICT components in the Smart City platform will enable them to be linked with other data sources and for data analytics to be shared, thereby boosting environmental monitoring and risk prevention.

The Case for Developing One System

The CDIA technical team developed a web-based EHS management system (WeHS). It aims to provide real-time monitoring of water and air quality as well as alerts on potential risks or hazardous leaks in the Huizhou District and She County industrial parks. The team proposed a conceptual design of how the two industrial parks and their manufacturing enterprises can cooperate to jointly improve EHS compliance and emergency response through advanced ICT and data sharing. The team demonstrated that separate systems can be merged into one to optimize resources and prevent duplication. The system is replicable in other industrial parks that are facing similar hazards, and it is scalable in operations. The WeHS software may also be used by other enterprises and park locators as an internal auditing tool and training platform.

In contrast to the original concept of four individual systems, the proposed single WeHS system will help provide real-time linkages between government, industrial parks, and manufacturing enterprises and better manage environmental or safety risks in the two industrial parks.

Overall, the revised project design was a paradigm shift from a conventional, compartmentalized, compliance-driven problem-solving approach to shared, cooperation-oriented environmental management in Huangshan City.

Key findings at a glance

  • Data integration should be central to the overall project design. In Huangshan, DRAB will take the lead in developing the core functions for EHS management systems as demonstrated in the pilot for the two industrial parks which will create a smart EHS or WeHS. The industrial parks may still develop smaller-scale management systems to address their specific needs. 
  • Data transparency can reduce environmental risks. Through the Huangshan Smart City platform, the project’s ICT component will have access to real-time information in key environmental areas, which will help improve environmental monitoring and responses. 
  • Plan for economies of scale. The ICT systems to be developed for environmental management and monitoring have a number of common features. As the CDIA team has shown in its pilot study, these can be integrated into a single operating platform, enabling net savings of more than 60% on the project’s ICT component.

The approach recommended by CDIA for ICT systems in the Huangshan Xin’an River Project shows that a well-designed system can support effective sharing of data and information and significantly improve management efficiency and effectiveness. It is hoped that the WeHS system will benefit not only the city but also other small and medium-sized cities in the PRC and in other countries in Asia and the Pacific.


Asian Development Bank (ADB). 2019. ADB Approves Green Financing, River Restoration Demonstration Project in Anhui, PRC. News release. 12 December.

ADB. People’s Republic of China: Anhui Huangshan Xin’an River Ecological Protection and Green Development Project. Unpublished.

Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA). 2020. Cost-Effective Environmental Management: Networking ICT Solutions.

CDIA. 2020. Environmental, Health and Safety Management for Industrial Parks: Web-based Solutions

Chee Anne Roño

Chee Anne Roño

Urban Development Specialist, Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA)

This blog is reproduced from Development Asia.

How Smart Lockers Work

Smart lockers are a common sight near residential apartments in Chinese cities. With them, consumers can pick up packages at their convenience without the need to wait at home.

Reaching for the Stars in the Fight Against COVID-19

Researchers are looking to space for innovative solutions to the pandemic. Photo: Greg Rakozy

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of technology in managing the crisis. Public-private partnerships, coupled with global cooperation, could help us explore technological solutions beyond the earth.

The world has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. To combat the spread of the virus, global cooperation and partnerships are of paramount importance. But we should be looking further afield for solutions, to a place beyond our planet but increasingly within reach of human collaboration.

Space technology is one area where governments and the private sector can join forces to defeat this infectious disease. In fact, public-private partnerships (PPPs) in space technology is nothing new. As early as 1962, the United States encouraged private sector participation in the space sector and its technology and it continues to have the most seasoned and active space program, contributing 58% of the $70.9 billion global government spending on space in 2018. 

Most space-related PPPs are focused on sharing risk and innovation with the private sector. The current emphasis is to leverage commercial sector innovation and agility.

For example, under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX launched the Crew Dragon, the first private sector owned, built, tested, and operated American manned spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station. The historic event demonstrates NASA’s continued commitment to invest and engage with private companies through PPPs.

The benefits are obvious. Space sector partnerships provide efficiency gains by tapping into private sector expertise, reduce lifecycle costs by attaining value for money, and allocate risks to the sector best suited to manage it.

For the private sector, it means opportunities for return on investments, potential competitive and market advantage, and additional revenue streams from unique government assets. 

Beyond these, partnerships in the space industry deliver two additional advantages. Transfer of technology—both from the government space agency to the private sector (“Spin-Offs”) and vice versa (“Spin-Ins”)—and policy alignments, whether to stimulate a country’s commercial space sector or to reach development goals, such as eliminating the digital divide or furthering global health objectives. 

recent study, covering 437 articles from 1981 to 2017, identified four key space technologies that have applications to global health: remote sensing; Global Navigation Satellite Systems; satellite communications; and human spaceflight.

In practice, PPPs that utilized space technologies have proven effective in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Republic of Korea has collaborated with the private sector in increasing production and creating applications that optimize and coordinate the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) using satellite navigation and communication technologies. Through PPE tracker apps, citizens are provided with accurate information on the availability and location of such equipment, empowering them to make informed decisions, avoid crowds, and prevent panic buying.

In the People’s Republic of China, satellite technologies, such as the local BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, have been crucial assets in tracking patients’ positions (e.g., Wuhan Mini Neighborhood App), monitoring cargo transport (e.g., White Rhino Auto’s self-driving delivery vehicle), and guiding drones for large-scale disinfection missions (Qianxun Spatial Intelligence).

While these innovative space applications are exciting, especially the creative PPPs in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, they are not without challenges.

Developing countries without a workforce with solid numeracy and digital literacy, proper infrastructure, and an enabling regulatory environment, face limited prospects in adopting the opportunities that space technologies present.  The pandemic has reinforced the importance of digital readiness for countries to respond effectively and inclusively, as well as maintain societal resilience and business continuity amidst the crisis.

Public-private partnerships, coupled with global cooperation, have the capacity to bring countries one step closer to exploring the final frontie

The nature of space development—high cost, high risk, and long lead-times—also intensify the difficulty of establishing national space programs. PPPs do not eliminate these challenges, rather, they provide an avenue for better risk management by making use of the best qualities offered by each participant.

PPPs and space technology development should always be tailored to the local context. In India, for example, private participation in the space sector remains limited to supplying parts and components for satellites and launch vehicles manufactured by the Indian Space Research Organization. Enabling the private sector to independently innovate and grow remains a challenging prerequisite to fully capitalize on the benefits of PPPs.

Recognizing these limitations, two international organizations exist to support and enhance spacefaring initiatives and cooperation in the region: the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum established in 1993 and the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization founded in 2008.

Both organizations promote cross-sectoral and inter-governmental cooperation and resource sharing in space science, space technology, and space application, as drivers of socio-economic development in Asia and the Pacific.

ADB has also been supportive in implementing effective space technology applications in many projects since the 1990s. Recent space technology ventures include the $50 million financing of the Kacific1 satellite, which will deliver internet connectivity to remote and rural communities in the Asia and Pacific region.  Another initiative is the Spatial Data Analysis Explorer (SPADE), an interactive web-based cloud platform that contains various geospatial data which can be used for project preparation, design and monitoring.

Now, more than ever, the space-Earth frontier should no longer be exclusive to a narrow niche of institutions and space-faring countries. Even in normal times, space technologies have offered innovative solutions to connectivity, inclusivity, and resilience challenges, and have supported healthcare delivery in the most extreme situations.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of these technologies in managing the crisis and putting countries back on track to sustainable development. Public-private partnerships, coupled with global cooperation, have the capacity to accelerate this initiative and bring countries one step closer to exploring the final frontier.

Regina Coeli Tan

Regina Coeli Tan

Associate Information and Research Coordinator (PPP), OAS

This blog is reproduced from Asian Development Blog.

Conceptual Design of the Intelligent Transport Systems Project: Case in Gui’an New District

Improving Farmers’ Income in the People’s Republic of China through E-Commerce

The People’s Republic of China has adopted policies to encourage farmers to start selling their products online. Photo credit: Ian Gil/ADB.

E-commerce can enhance rural livelihoods with public investments in facilities and training, access to funding, and favorable market conditions.


There has been rapid adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the past decade. It is a world leader in e-commerce. However, access to ICT is concentrated in coastal and urban areas. The government has taken steps to strengthen infrastructure and capacity as well as provide funding to support e-commerce development in rural areas.

study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) looks at the impact of policies and investments in e-commerce on farmers. It shows that online selling is still new to farmers, but they are receptive to it because of the potential for higher income and self-employment.

However, a successful e-commerce venture is dependent on infrastructure and location, as well as the farmers’ relevant knowledge and skills. Government initiatives in these areas are needed for e-commerce to impact positively across the agriculture sector in the PRC.

Survey Results

The development and adoption of ICT have seen a significant increase in the PRC, with the number of internet users and mobile phone subscriptions reaching 772 million and 753 million in 2017, respectively. E-commerce has experienced even more rapid growth, as PRC has become the largest e-commerce market in the world since 2013. In 2017, it posted online sales valued at RMB 5,328.8 billion (more than $700 billion).

The study examined the ICT uses and development of e-commerce in rural PRC. It used data based on the two rounds of surveys done by the CCAP in 2017 and 2018, which covered 1,128 households that represent seven provinces in the PRC.

Survey results showed significant improvement in rural ICT infrastructure, logistic services, and the use of mobile phones by farmers. In 2017, all villages in rural PRC had access to mobile phone services, with about 70% having access to the internet. Nearly 90% of adults had a mobile phone, and 71% of them used a smartphone for social networking, news monitoring, watching videos, shopping, and online payment.

Many farmers are willing to venture into e-commerce, the survey reported. The number of villages doing e-commerce increased to 63% in 2017 from 41% in 2016. That year, only 3% of farmers sold their products online, but 25% of farmers surveyed were open to doing e-commerce. Those hesitant to go into the online business cited as reasons the lack of relevant knowledge and skills, lack of storage and preservation facilities, high logistical costs, and inadequate marketing skills.

The survey showed that purchasing agricultural products online was not popular, but almost 20% of farmers are willing to transact through e-commerce for convenience and lower prices. Reluctance to buy online was attributed to a lack of relevant knowledge and skills, poor trust in online transactions, and high uncertainty on the quality of products.

An intensive e-commerce survey was also conducted in 250 households from 20 villages in Shandong and Zhejiang provinces. Results indicated that e-commerce raised farmer’s income and self-employment as online transactions resulted in higher net profits and are more labor-intensive than offline sales.

While the overall use of ICTs is impressive and rapidly growing in PRC, E-commerce is yet to get a good start. Several challenges stand in its way. A primary concern cited by farmers is the lack of facilities that can store and guarantee the freshness of products for long-distance deliveries. This limits products for online sales and the range of potential buyers.

Another challenge is in marketing, with low trust in online transactions, especially involving agricultural products. The initial investment to set up an online store is high and usually prohibitive for small farms without external support. Even after a successful startup, the retention of customers may require additional costs.


The study recommends six measures to facilitate the development and adoption of ICT and e-commerce in rural areas.

  1. Invest in the storage and transportation of agriculture products.
  2. Invest in capacity building by training farmers on how to operate an e-commerce business.
  3. Provide financial and credit support to farmers who are in e-commerce.
  4. Facilitate cooperation among farmers.
  5. Improve regulations and provide a favorable market for the development of agricultural e-commerce.
  6. Promote more inclusive e-commerce development in rural areas.

E-commerce is more likely to benefit the regions with better infrastructure and location and farmers who have relevant knowledge, skills, and resources. The role of government is to close the gap between the haves and have-nots to broaden and deepen the impact of agricultural e-commerce.


ADB, CCAP, and International Food Policy Research Institute. 2019. Information and Communication Technology for Agriculture in the People’s Republic of China. Manila.

J. Hinrichs. 2018. How Technology Plus Agriculture is Triggering Growth in the People’s Republic of China. Development Asia

X. Li, H.C. Tang, and J. Xu. 2019. Development Asia. What Can ASEAN Learn from the People’s Republic of China’s Poverty Reduction Strategy?, Development Asia. 

Akmal Siddiq

Akmal Siddiq

Chief of Rural Development and Food Security (Agriculture) Thematic Group, Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, ADB

Md. Abul Basher

Md. Abul Basher

Natural Resources and Agriculture Specialist, Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, ADB

Jikun Huang

Jikun Huang

Professor, School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences and Director, CCAP, Peking University

Min Liu

Min Liu

Professor, Lanzhou University

 Huimin Wang

Huimin Wang

Ph.D. student, School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences, Peking University

This blog is reproduced from Development Asia.

Information and Communication Technology for Agriculture in the People’s Republic of China

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