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ABACUS digital’s CEO Joins Nikkei Forum 2024 Recommends “Guidelines” to Overcome Challenges, Grab Opportunities in Digital Age

Dr. Sutapa Amornvivat

On 23 May 2024, Dr. Sutapa Amornvivat, founder and CEO of ABACUS digital, received the honor to serve as a speaker at Nikkei Forum 2024, Tokyo, Japan. On the stage with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretary-general Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, she addressed the topic of Cross-border Digital Synergy: Enhancing Asia-Pacific Cooperation and underlined that public-private collaborations for Thailand’s adaptability were crucial to driving Thai businesses forward amid fierce competition as technologies had now significantly influenced every industry.


Opportunities & Challenges in Digital-Age ASEAN

ASEAN countries are rapidly advancing in digital transformation, with the region’s overall internet penetration rate as high as 90% as opposed to 91% in the European Union’s zone and 91.8% in the United States. Presently, 350 million people out of ASEAN’s 700-million population have a smartphone. The region’s e-commerce and fintech industries therefore are fast growing. Many of ASEAN’s startups have already transformed into unicorns too. All these factors have supported digital transformation.

Nikkei Forum 2024 Dr. Sutapa Amornvivat


Dr. Sutapa, as the founder of a fintech company that has provided digital lending services via “MoneyThunder” application, revealed that digital lending sector had also been expanding fast in recent years in Southeast Asia. Considered a big market with solid potential, ASEAN is home to about 700 million people. If ASEAN countries stand united, ASEAN will be the third biggest market in the world after China and India. The regions’ public and private sectors thus must work closely together in achieving further development and removing challenges in pursuit of growth opportunities.


Key Challenges to Unlocking Potential

1.  Non-universal access to digital infrastructure:  Although smartphone penetration rate in ASEAN is getting higher, rural people in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar still lack access to high-speed internet. 

2. Inconsistent regulations: Regulatory frameworks, including those governing data security. change from nation to nation in ASEAN. Cybersecurity standards among ASEAN countries are also different. Such differences have posed obstacles and discouraged foreign investments.  

3. Lack of skilled talents: Even though educational institutes have struggled to improve curriculum in response to the rapidly evolving digital landscape, graduates’ qualifications have not yet fully satisfied the demand. Skilled talents are still lacking in many fields especially when it comes to the jobs of data analysts, AI experts, and cybersecurity specialists.

4. Exclusive growth: Socioeconomic disparities have caused unequal access to digital technologies and opportunities. Marginalized groups such as rural people, women, and persons with disabilities, are often ignored and excluded from benefit distribution. Such problem has caused long-term social issues.


Guidelines for ASEAN to Overcome Challenges & Grow

  • Collaboration on R&D and knowledge transfer via R&D projects among ASEAN nations and private-public collaborations to encourage knowledge upgrade in the region. 

  • Improvement in immigration laws and harmonized occupational standards for better mobility of skilled workers and greater ability to attract talents to the region. 

  • Shared data protection laws and standards in support of a greater range of digital services while safeguarding privacy, with ASEAN nations’ cybersecurity cooperation contributing to the solid growth of digital businesses.

  • Inclusive policies to ensure technology benefits all groups of population, with ASEAN countries’ governments expected to reduce digital divide and inequality through the formulation of inclusive policies that promote the underprivileged people’s access to technologies. Through public-private collaborations, ASEAN countries should urgently expand digital infrastructure for better coverage. Aside, they should work together in infrastructural expansion and connectivity upgrade to maximize efficiency.


Dr. Sutapa said technology could practically curb inequality gap in societies. For example, digital lending services have now offered opportunities to people who were rejected by traditional financial institutions and had no choice but to rely on loan sharks in the past. Via MoneyThunder application, ABACUS digital has brought the opportunities to safe lending services to its customers.  Of its customers, more than 30% were previously denied bank loans. More than half of the company’s customers said the loan from MoneyThunder helped increase their income. Such findings highlight ABACUS digital’s success in reducing social inequality with technology.


The CEO of ABACUS digital concluded on the stage that ASEAN-level collaborations would unlock the region’s potential and bring Southeast Asia towards brighter business prospects, innovations, and better quality of life.

ABACUS digital Nikkei Forum 2024




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