Understanding the Potential Disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on ASEAN Integration and Determining the Responses

1 Sep 2017

LKYSPP-ADB Internship Programme
Internship Experience at the Asian Development Bank (ADB)
Tey Sovannaroth (MPP 2016-2018)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)—the interactions of technologies across the physical, digital, and biological realms—is on the rise spurring up new breakthroughs and disrupting systems in many aspects of life. The invention of small yet powerful and affordable sensors led to real-time monitoring of product usage, cargo tracking, pipe maintenance, etc. 3D printing is altering the entire operating models of businesses and allowing startups to set up shop almost anywhere

Internship Learning Session- Savonnaroth

It is important, however, to be mindful of the negative effects that the 4IR could cause as well. The potential mass adoption of automation and advent of talentism over capitalism could possibly reshape the entire employment structure segregating job markets into low-skill/low-pay and high-skill/high-pay groups and widening the gap between the rich and poor. The rise of human cloud and on-demand economies such as ride-hailing groups could potentially expose employees to labor exploitation and users to physical harms as the regulations governing employment processes and operational aspects of these sectors have not been standardized yet. The uncertainties surrounding the future of the 4IR make regional and global efforts to prepare for its impacts even more important.

ASEAN is at the forefront in terms of experiencing the disruptive forces of the new revolution while promoting regional economic integration at the same time. The 4IR could unleash as much as $625 billion annually for ASEAN in 2030 as more efficient manufacturing and service delivery processes take precedence, but it could also exacerbate inequality, job insecurity, and privacy issues.

ASEAN recently established the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) at the end of 2015, and while the mandates, structures, and functions of the body were well-established at the time, the disruptive forces of the 4IR have raised new questions for the future of AEC and ASEAN’s efforts in promoting regional integration. In trying to answer these questions, it is essential to comprehend the disruptive forces of the 4IR and their impacts on regional integration as well as best practices from other regional organizations in response to changes of this magnitude. On that note, I was very fortunate to be given the responsibility to draft a joint research paper by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Economic Forum (WEF) on the topic.

In particular, I was researching on the potential impacts that the disruptions from the 4IR could have on ASEAN economic integration and on the institutional reforms that the association could consider in developing better responses to those impacts. To begin with, I was briefed by my supervisors about the aims and outputs of the project, and then I began working on it immediately. Most of the tasks involve secondary data gathering in the forms of online journals, articles, and books but I was given access to any conferences and workshops held in ADB with permission from my supervisors. I made great uses of such privilege and gathered some crucial primary data for the paper. Through consecutive meetings with my supervisors, telephone conferences with colleagues from the WEF, and ADB experts’ feedbacks from various presentations of my draft research, I was able to produce the paper which, after including more inputs from business leaders, will be presented to ASEAN heads of state at the 31st ASEAN Summit in November, 2017.

Presentation for internal ADB staffs- Savonnaroth

Aside from the incredible opportunity to work on the paper, I was able to meet many incredible people. My supervisors are the technical advisor, lead economist, and economist in the Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department, and they are incredibly supportive, humble, and forward-looking. I was given the honor to present my research to the Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Director General for the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, Chief Economist, and various ADB experts on multiple occasions. With an amazing initiative from the LKYSPP Career Services Team, I was able to meet former LKYSPP and NUS students currently working at ADB and learn about their experiences working at the Bank. Last but not least, I have made incredible friends with other ADB interns who have incredible backgrounds from well-known schools and share similar passions.

Presentation for VPKM DG and CE- Savonnaroth

Overall, my internship at ADB was beyond what I could have asked for. The level of academic rigor was intense but the immense amount of support I received during the process made the whole experience academically stimulating and professionally fulfilling. I have learned to balance viewpoints of various academics while taking initiatives of my own, and to utilize the assets that a multidisciplinary organization has to offer. I have also brought with me new knowledge on development areas that are on the top of the agendas for various international organizations. Finally, on top of the professional and academic gains, I have encountered multiple social interactions and become friends with amazing people who will positively change the course of developments in their area of specialties. To my supervisors—Dr. Arjun Goswami, Dr. Jayant Menon, and Ms. Anna Fink—, I would like to express my deepest gratitude for gracefully guiding me both on my internship as well as my career development. Of course, the whole experience would not have been possible without the brilliant initiative and supports of Dr. Gambhir Bhatta of the ADB Governance Thematic Group and the entire LKYSPP Career Services Team. I am forever grateful for the opportunity and look forward to contribute to the future success of the LKYSPP-ADB Internship Programme.
Supervisors - Savonnaroth