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Throughout the past decade, there have been many technological developments that occurred at such an accelerated rate. The development and advancement of artificial intelligence systems have made it possible for the technologically illiterate to feel like the next Steve Jobs or even Bill gates. The adoption of the Internet Plus policy has changed the course for the Chinese internet and technology role-players. The previously reserved stance the government took on internet use gave rise to tech and internet giants that catered to the needs of the Chinese market on all spheres. Companies such as Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba, are just some of the names that the Chinese mention with pride when they speak of their country. There has been considerable pressure from the world for China to ‘open up’ the internet and let loose on some of the restrictions it holds in order for the country’s economy to grow and for the Chinese people to play a part in its advancement globally. The Internet Plus policy seeks to do just that, but in doing so, there exists a need for the so-called ‘internet giants’ to seek development and establish development areas within China and the rest of Asia. One such place of internet and technology development could be Southeast Asia – here’s why:
Southeast Asia: Current Situation and Opportunities
There has been a very significant investment wave that has hit Southeast Asia in the last couple of years. This is due to the fact that China has become very competitive in almost all its industries and scalability has somewhat dwindled. Southeast Asia, comprising of countries such as Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, has a population in the upwards of six hundred million. The plus side to all of this is that these countries are considered third-world countries and because of the lack of infrastructure that most of them have, there is a realistic opportunity of scalability. Sticking to the opportunities that exist, these countries have a population that is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese – unlike other companies that may need to invest in the elimination of language barriers, the establishment of their initiatives can roll out much more smoothly.
China, like the super-power that it is, has adopted the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative whereby it seeks to draw the Southeast Asian market closer to Beijing. Amidst the potential geopolitical issues that may have been foreseen, Asia’s love for the current Chinese leader has seen talks with island countries like the Philippines yielding considerable results. Under the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, Southeast Asian countries can now play a more significant role in the Chinese trade and investment. Although a deeper analysis still needs to be considered when looking at the potential return on investment, it goes without saying that countries that are developing, such as the Southeast Asian market, can only yield good results as they seek to increase their role in the international sphere.
Are Chinese Internet Giants the Right Facilitators?
Throughout the globe, many countries look to the west when considering the standard for growth, innovation and basic living. When one takes a look at Asia however, Southeast Asia looks to China how the rest of the world looks to the west. China’s influence over Asia is second to none, their closest competitor being India. The country has trade and partnership agreements with countries like New Zealand, Pakistan, and Colombia – with ongoing talks with countries such as South Korea and Australia. On an international scale, China has financed construction projects for many countries, establishing a footprint, no matter how small it may be. With this in mind, one can only imagine the benefits that this may have for an island like the Philippines, whose infrastructure may not be up to scratch when compared to China, due to the scarcity of resources and reliance on one industry such as tourism.
When it comes to education, China is the standard in Asia, its students a renowned for their diligence and persistence no matter where they go. The introduction of the Internet Plus policy will reshape education, and China may even globalize its Internet Plus Education scheme through working with Philippines based companies such as Acadsoc. Acadsoc is a company that has shaped the education industry for many countries in Asia – the company, including competitors such as 51Talk has given many Filipino teachers and learners the chance to participate in an innovative teaching and learning initiative through the internet. Countries that may benefit through such globalization, include countries part of the BRICS partners (Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa) – countries in dire need of educational reform. In order to achieve this though, there needs to be a mutually beneficial coherence between these government policies and the internet giants in China.
In order to infiltrate such areas, companies such as Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu need not only rely on the government initiatives, but they also have to invest considerable amounts of money for both infrastructure and social development projects. An advocate for Asian economic independence is Jack Ma, one of the wealthiest men in Asia, and founder of Alibaba, a company deeply rooted in Asia. Jack Ma calls for more Asian players in the global economy and minds such as his are best suited to facilitate the role that Southeast Asia will play in the coming years. His company has shaped a new path for ecommerce in China and the company seeks to develop bases in Southeast Asia to provide ecommerce even to the most remote of areas of Southeast Asia, using technology and the internet. On top of that, the Alibaba Group has already invested amounts of about two billion dollars into the advancement of technology in Southeast Asia. The ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy can be credited for such bold initiatives that may come in the next couple of years as Tencent, another internet giant that has made QQ the benchmark for communication in Asia, seeks to develop internet platforms through the arrival of Internet Plus. Having such industry leaders will see countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines creating tailor-made products that are both unique to them, but relevant in their continent and globe.
Unlimited. That is the best answer to give when asked of the possibilities that lie ahead. The role of these developments will not only fund the birth of new global companies waving the Southeast Asian flag up high, but it will also give existing companies, like Acadsoc, a new platform to further their cause. The trickling down of the technological adoption will see countries such as Philippines, which rely heavily on third parties for their tourism brokerage, handling that administration on their own. This independence will give rise to more opportunities for small and medium internet companies within the region, through infrastructural development. On the educational frontier, as China’s educational system progresses, it will in turn develop and progress the Southeast Asian educational system as well, to a point where there exists one standard of high quality education, with the aid from companies such as Acadsoc, throughout the Southeast Asia, and maybe even Asia as a whole. The company is already a pioneer in the eLearning industry. Its continued growth will cement its foundation as a top tier company, not only in returns but on the social impact it already has. Acadsoc may see a rise in western interest and that will not only have benefits in the form of human capital, but it will provide a bridge in the cultural gap that most Southeast Asian countries and the west have – through the learning of English and education as a whole.
Ideas are pretty and attractive when they are on a piece of paper, even more, attractive when they are discussed. Now is the time for action. The Chinese government has adopted two policies that will change the Asian economy forever – the ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy and the ‘Internet Plus’ policy.
Together, these two policies have the power to use the internet as an advancement tool, not only for mainland Asia but for the outlying islands as well, in Southeast Asia. Projects need to be facilitated and regulated by the government, giving the likes of Alibaba and Tencent the freedom to innovate, but also, regulate in order to give an opportunity for domestic companies to flourish as well. The key word is collaboration and that is something the Chinese government and tech giants such as Jack Ma know very well – and by virtue of that, best suited to execute.