Ministries, World Bank highlight benefits of improved digital economy

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Ministry of Planning and Investment and Ministry of Post and Telecommunications partnered with the World Bank to host the ‘Digital Opportunities for a More Competitive Future’ workshop in Vientiane on Thursday. 

Government officials, private sector representatives and international experts attended the workshop to discuss the digital economy, its potential to impact on economic growth, and ways to ensure that more people can benefit from digital opportunities in Laos.

Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, Dr Kikeo Chanthaboury, Deputy Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Mr Thongsay Xanexaya, and Acting Country Manager of the World Bank, Mrs Viengsamay Srithirath, co-chaired the workshop.

The event focused on the need to accelerate digital transformation in Laos, allowing the country to take advantage of the opportunities that digital connectivity can bring.

Speaking at the workshop, Dr Kikeo said digital technology was a key driver of economic development and innovation.

“In Laos, there is more to be done to improve the accessibility, quality and affordability of internet services. By embracing digital technology, everybody benefits - private citizens, businesses, and also public administration. We really need to maximise the opportunities that arise from adopting digital technology to make Laos more competitive,” he said.

Participants debated key digital challenges, including how to increase the speed of and access to broadband internet. They also discussed ways to make the Internet affordable and ensure that access to broadband can reach more beneficiaries, including through private-public partnerships.

The importance of strengthening the regulatory environment on digital payments, electronic signatures, and data security and consumer protection to build trust in online transactions was also highlighted.

Mr Thongsay said the post and telecommunications sector needed to work harder to unlock all the potential for digital improvements. This included providing a supportive environment to ensure various kinds of digital services of sufficient quality and appropriate prices, to allow the sector to be more competitive.

Meanwhile, Mrs Viengsamay said 90 percent of Lao people were digitally connected through their mobile phones. But both the private sector and the government could improve their effectiveness in delivering services by adopting digital solutions.

“We are delighted to support the authorities to find solutions on how to improve the use of digital technologies – which are also key to a more inclusive pattern of economic growth and a better quality of life for all citizens”, she said.

Last year, the World Bank conducted a rapid assessment of Laos’ digital development.

The resulting report provided a snapshot of digital development and highlighted areas for improvement, particularly with regard to connectivity and regulation. It also described the overall level of digitisation in Laos’ public administration, based on international benchmarks.

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