Southeast Asia’s economies are moving into the ‘digital decade’

Southeast Asia’s economies are moving into the ‘digital decade’

Eighty per cent of the population in Southeast Asia is now using the internet, a trend led by the pandemic.

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Over the next four years, Southeast Asia’s booming digital economy will double to US$363 billion the region is on the path to become a $1 trillion digital economy by 2030, an e-Conomy SouthEast Asia 2021 report published by Google, Singapore’s Temasek & Bain and Company predicted.

Spurred by the pandemic, the region’s leading internet economies – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – are all showing double-digit growth with the Philippines leading the way.

This revised projection is raised upwards as the previous estimate was only for the digital economy to hit $300 billion.

The report also highlighted that SEA is entering its ‘digital decade’ as the internet increasingly becomes an integral part of consumers’ daily lives. Southeast Asia now has more than 440 million internet users, and interestingly, 350 million of them, or about 80%, are digital consumers.

A total of 60 million new digital consumers were added since the start of the pandemic, led by Thailand and the Philippines.

Key highlights

Some key observations from the report include:

  • Sixty million consumers who joined since the pandemic started are here to stay. Nine in 10 consumers who tried a new digital service in 2020 is continuing to do so in 2021.
  • A third agreed that they would not have survived the pandemic if not for digital platforms
  • Strong growth fundamentals, successful exits and supportive regulations have increased global capital entering the region

From 2020 to 2021, the Philippines recorded the region’s highest growth rate of 93%, predicted to grow from $9 billion to $17 billion, and $40 billion by 2025. The Philippines has one of the region’s highest proportions of new users who started consuming online during the pandemic, with 20% of the country’s digital consumers using a digital service for the first time since March 2020.

The Vietnamese digital economy, another country witnessing high internet adoption, will see a growth rate of 31 per cent this year over the same period last year, reaching US$21 billion.

Thailand's internet economy is expected to be worth US$30 billion in 2021, up 51% year-on-year, led by a surge in e-commerce. Thailand added eight million new digital consumers, of which more than half come from non-metro areas.

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