Southeast Asia’s Internet sectors continue to see strong growth, hitting $100 billion in 2020, and are on track to cross $300 billion by 2025 stated a report by Google, Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings and business consultants Bain & Co.
The e-Conomy SEA 2020 report sheds light on the internet economy in the region, covering Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam and shows that internet usage in Southeast Asia continues to multiply, with 40M new users this year alone (400M YTD vs. 360M in 2019).
Super surge in new users
New users are coming online at a blistering pace, adding 40M new Internet users this year alone compared to 100M between 2015 and 2019 and 70% of the region’s population is now online.
During lockdowns, new users made up 38% of the region’s Subscription Video on Demand services (SVOD).Music subscriptions, on the other hand, grew at a slightly slower pace of 34% in the same period.
Thailand to have second largest internet economy in the region
In Thailand, with its various stages of lockdowns, users turned to the Internet for solutions to their sudden challenges. A significant number tried new digital services: 30% of all digital service consumers were new, with 95% of these new consumers intending to continue their behavior post-pandemic.
Thailand is projected to have the second largest internet economy in the region this year after Indonesia, despite economic challenges: the internet economy is projected to climb 7% to $18 billion this year, the second largest internet economy in Asean.
Resilience in times of crisis
e-Commerce has driven significant growth in Thailand, at 81%. This steep ascendance has largely offset declines in Travel and Transport. Overall, 2020 GMV is expected to reach a total value of US $18B in 2020, having grown at 7% YoY.
Looking at 2025, the overall e-Conomy will likely reach US $53B in value, re-accelerating to ~25% CAGR.
Online with a purpose
Southeast Asians spent on average an hour more a day on the Internet during Covid-19–imposed lockdowns, and it’s easy to see why. The Internet sector provided access to essential goods, healthcare, education and entertainment, and helped businesses “keep the lights on.”
With 8 out of 10 Southeast Asians viewing technology as very helpful during the pandemic, it has become an indispensable part of people’s daily lives.
HealthTech and EdTech have played a critical role during the pandemic, with impressive adoption rates to match. Even so, these sectors remain nascent and challenges need to be addressed before they can be commercialized at a larger scale. Nonetheless, the boost in adoption, compounded with fast-growing funding, is likely to propel innovation in this space over the coming years.
Has Covid-19 prompted the Belt and Road Initiative to go green?
– Chinese overseas investment dropped off in 2020
– Government remains committed to the wide-ranging infrastructure programme
– Sustainability, health and digital to be the new cornerstones of the initiative
Following a year of coronavirus-related disruptions, China appears to be placing a greater focus on sustainable, digital and health-related projects in its flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
As OBG outlined in April last year, the onset of Covid-19 prompted questions about the future direction of the BRI.
Launched in 2013, the BRI is an ambitious international initiative that aims to revive ancient Silk Road trade routes through large-scale infrastructure development.
By the start of 2020 some 2951 BRI-linked projects – valued at a total of $3.9trn – were planned or under way across the world.
However, as borders closed and lockdowns were imposed, progress stalled on a number of major BRI infrastructure developments.
In June China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that 30-40% of BRI projects had been affected by the virus, while a further 20% had been “seriously affected”. Restrictions on the flow of Chinese workers and construction supplies were cited as factors behind project suspensions or slowdowns in Pakistan, Cambodia and Indonesia, among other countries.
Will Covid-19 unleash a new generation of digital nomads?
– Despite travel restrictions, countries are seeking to attract digital nomads
– Dubai and Mexico have emerged as key destinations for foreign remote workers
– As travel resumes, many anticipate a new wave of roaming digital nomads
With Covid-19 facilitating the widespread adoption of remote working practices, some emerging markets are seeking to attract digital nomads through a series of incentives and special visas.
Despite border closures and travel restrictions resulting from the virus, various countries are stepping up efforts to incentivise the movement of so-called digital nomads – people who work remotely and relocate relatively freely.
For example, in October the Dubai government launched its virtual working programme, an initiative that gives foreign professionals the opportunity to move to the emirate and continue to work remotely in their current jobs.
The one-year programme, launched after Dubai reopened its borders to international tourists in July last year, is designed is attract professionals, entrepreneurs and those working in start-ups.
Given its strong ICT infrastructure and healthy start-up scene, Dubai has been seen as an increasingly attractive option for digital nomads in recent years, with officials marketing the emirate as a place where people can live and work by the beach.
As a further incentive, in January officials began offering free vaccines to those on the programme.
Covid-19 and medical tourism: is a recovery on the cards?
– Dubai was a world leader among emerging market destinations
– Covid-19 travel bans and lockdowns seriously dented growth
– Increased emphasis on safety has enabled a gradual re-opening
Prior to the outbreak of coronavirus, medical tourism was a significant growth industry in many emerging economies. While the pandemic represented a major setback for the segment, there are signs that it may be recovering in several markets.
The last decade saw a boom in medical tourism. By 2018 the global market was generating $58.6bn annually and in 2019 it was forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.7% – reaching more than $142.2bn by 2026.
The segment’s growth was largely spurred by increased awareness – particularly among citizens of higher-income countries – of the quality and relatively affordable health care options on offer in many emerging economies. The appeal was further enhanced by the possibility of combining medical treatment with a holiday in an attractive location.
Asia has been a popular region for medical tourism for some time. In Thailand, for example, guided by the Ministry of Public Health’s 2016-25 strategic plan entitled ‘Thailand: A Hub of Wellness and Medical Services’, stakeholders have been working to cement the country’s position as a regional leader in medical tourism.
Elsewhere in Asia, in 2017 the Indian government began offering a medical visa aimed at bringing in more foreign patients.
Governments in other regions similarly moved to capitalise on this growing segment. In 2015, for example, Turkish Airlines announced a 50% discount on flights for people coming to Turkey for medical treatment.
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