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Crowd-sourced policy making bridging the digital divide

Over the weekend of 28-29 August, the AASYP brought together a talented and eager group of 60 young leaders and policy makers looking to affect and lead meaningful change in the multilateral dialogue and relationship, and seeking to shape the future of the ASEAN region and the wider Indo-Pacific. The dialogue's focus on diversity and the free exchange ideas over a virtual platform represented both a reflection of the times through ongoing pandemic restrictions, while also exhibiting the ability for technology and passionate individuals to relate on shared ideals and common issues. As a member of the Emerging Economies stream, delegates engaged in lively debate and inquiry over the future of regional growth, driven through the use of resilient, trusted, and transparent technology.

The success of the Digital Dialogues was demonstrated across several defining sections of the event. Firstly, the panel webinars examined the growing digital divide and the challenges and opportunities in COVID recovery. Herein, it was affirmed that the growing pace of digital transformation was having an increasingly amplified effect upon socioeconomic equality both within and between regional states - impacting the livelihood, educational opportunities, and global integration and engagement of their citizens through cyberspace. Additionally, while the significant impacts of the COVID19 pandemic upon regional development was acknowledged, the pandemic has provided regional economies with the opportunity to pursue a “great reset” in effecting changes across establish socioeconomic practices for the benefit of a more sustainable and prosperous future.

Second, the report writing workshop imparted valuable knowledge for delegates in understanding the policy formation process, elevating their ability to produce compelling and relevant work as future leaders. Mentors from various IGOs and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade coached delegates on the means for isolating pressing policy issues within mainstream dialogues, in the process for conducting and compiling research, and in assembling one’s research ideas into a coherent and digestible through five simple steps. This included first identifying the problem, then understanding the context, finding and describing evidence, exploring options, and advancing recommendations. My personal benefit from the workshop was the realization how the policy process challenges individuals to move beyond mere criticism of significant international and policy issues, but to also offer a viable alternative for those in power to explore and enact.

Finally, the policy workshop section of the dialogue provided a unique window for exploring how technology had continued to shape the lives of fellow delegates from across the region. In brainstorming our policy recommendations to address the digital divide and promote equitable outcomes across the region, several pressing issues were isolated – including unequal development outcomes; a persistent lack of sufficient internet-based infrastructure; and the limited digital financial inclusion of women. Our subsequent recommendations focused upon supporting regional cooperation in sharing technological expertise; the running of financial literacy education programs for women in remote and regional aeras; and intensified regional cooperation to align laws and regulations on internet use. My personal benefit from the policy workshop was the potential to bring together diverse and opposing voices together through the democratic process.

In summary, the Digital Dialogues symbolized the newfound adaptive and diverse future of diplomatic engagement and crowdsourced policy making over cyberspace. It is anticipated that our policy outcomes and recommendations will play a pivotal role in helping empower youth from across the region in driving regional socioeconomic development and prosperity using resilient, trusted, and transparent technology.

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