U.S. Sponsors Conference on Benefits of Connectivity in ASEAN’s Rural Regions

Hanoi, Vietnam – Innovative technology is at the heart of improving access to education and health services in rural communities in the lower Mekong region and throughout ASEAN. That was the message that emerged during the first ever ASEAN Rural Connectivity Conference for Education and Development in Vietnam this week. Over 200 participants from ASEAN governments, corporations, international organizations, and rural communities gathered at the U.S.-supported event to discuss key issues and solutions to rural connectivity.

“It’s through the sharing of experiences and ideas that we see innovative and effective ways in which technology can bring more efficient key services, in particular education and health services, to people in rural communities of ASEAN,” said U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David B. Shear, who opened the conference.

The conference showcased a variety of products that are currently using information and communications technologies (ICT) to enhance service delivery. Skype and the Southeast Asia Ministers of Education Organization’s Regional Open Learning Center presented advanced approaches to using video conferencing for two-way classrooms and teacher training. Other examples showcased the latest lifesaving technologies, such as a live E-health demonstration of video and high speed internet helping doctors consult with patients over long distances in Kosovo and Albania. Innovative new uses for more established technologies, like SMS messaging being used to aggregate testing information from provincial schools in Papua province, Indonesia, were also highlighted.

“There are so many innovative approaches already happening in the ASEAN region, and throughout the world, that can improve access to education and health services. This conference demonstrates some of them and helps government and private sector actors seriously consider how technology can expand services in rural areas” said Rony Soerakoesoemah, the Head of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration at the ASEAN Secretariat. The Initiative’s goal is to narrow the development divide in ASEAN and counts promoting ICT among its priorities.

During the conference, representatives from companies, such as Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, Qualcomm, Avaya and others brainstormed solutions with ASEAN senior officials and donor organizations on how to work together to improve access to education and development services in the lower Mekong region.

Ashutosh Chadha, Director of Intel’s Asia Pacific Strategic Education Initiatives, commented that “Improving the lives of people in rural communities in the lower Mekong depends on all of us, the private sector, governments, civil society and international development organizations. Hopefully this conference is a new beginning for public-private partnerships in rural connectivity.”

The conference was organized by ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility (TATF), in collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat and the Ministry of Information and Communication of Vietnam. ASEAN-TATF is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Department of State.