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ASEAN Foundation Unveils Research Findings on Digital Literacy, Spotlighting the Digital Divide Across the Region


ASEAN Foundation Unveils Research Findings on Digital Literacy, Spotlighting the Digital Divide Across the Region

Bangkok, March 20, 2023 – The ASEAN Foundation, with support from Google.org, unveiled research findings on digital literacy at the ASEAN Regional Symposium: Unveiling Insights into the Region’s Digital Literacy, held on March 20, 2024, in Bangkok. Titled “One Divide or Many Divides? Underprivileged ASEAN Communities’ Meaningful Digital Literacy and Response to Disinformation,” the study delves into the digital engagement of underprivileged ASEAN communities. It examines their knowledge, skills, experiences, and responses to disinformation with the aim of establishing a baseline understanding of digital literacy’s role in recognizing and responding to disinformation within these communities.

This research is one of the flagship programs of the ASEAN Digital Literacy Programme (ASEAN DLP), following the successful empowerment of over 190,000 individuals across ASEAN with essential digital literacy skills. The ASEAN DLP includes direct outreach by the ASEAN Youth Advisory Group, which actively mobilizes the campaign through various social media channels, engaging 3,000 people through onsite activities and reaching over 900,000 on social media. It has also launched an e-learning platform addressing misinformation, www.DigitalClassASEAN.org.

“As the latest ASEAN Digital Literacy Programme research concludes, the ASEAN Foundation invites strategic stakeholders to attend and discuss the study reports and findings. This research covered quantitative survey and qualitative data collection from all 10 ASEAN member states. We are presenting it at this symposium so attendees can listen to insights and recommendations from each member country and have in-depth discussions with country researchers. We hope this research will help bridge the digital divide in the ASEAN region and create a more inclusive and safer digital space,” said Dr. Piti Srisangnam, Executive Director of ASEAN Foundation.  

According to the report, levels of critical thinking and privacy protection competence vary widely across ASEAN member states. Notably, Thailand exhibits the lowest percentage of individuals with high critical thinking skills, at 25%, contrasting with neighboring Cambodia’s impressive 62.2%. The Philippines is behind in privacy protection competence, with only 17.42% of individuals possessing high competence, while Singapore excels with 54.37%.

The Philippines has a significant digital presence, with a high number of internet and social media users, but it is also facing a substantial challenge with digital illiteracy and the spread of disinformation. Despite the high internet penetration rate of 73.1 percent and a social media usage rate of 72.5 percent, the Philippines has been identified as having the highest level of digital illiteracy in the world according to the United Nations in ICT literacy skills.

This digital illiteracy contributes to a thriving disinformation ecosystem, which was particularly evident during significant events such as the 2022 General Elections. The spread of misinformation is facilitated by unregulated media channels, a lack of specific regulations governing the use and dissemination of information on social media, and the absence of concrete policies or curricula to combat misinformation. Vulnerable groups, including the urban poor and youth, are especially at risk.

The government is urged to take proactive measures to address these challenges, such as enhancing digital literacy among the youth, incorporating media literacy into the education curriculum, and establishing an executive agency to deal with misinformation issues in collaboration with the Department of Public Affairs and Information Services. The need for the government to manage misinformation by publishing correct information through social media and regulating misinformation at the local level is also emphasized.

In summary, while the Philippines has a robust digital and social media presence, the country must confront the issues of digital illiteracy and disinformation, which pose risks to public perception, trust, and security.

With the release of these groundbreaking findings, the ASEAN Foundation aims to spark meaningful discussions and foster collaborative efforts among stakeholders to address the multifaceted digital literacy challenges facing the ASEAN region. Its goal is to strengthen community resilience against mis/disinformation through comprehensive digital literacy programs and stakeholder engagement, taking into consideration infrastructure disparities, socio-cultural influences, and varying government initiatives across ASEAN.

As Marija Ralic, Lead for Google.org APAC, said, “We are proud to support the ASEAN Foundation in empowering people across the region with crucial media literacy and online safety skills. Google.org’s dedication to fostering digital safety aligns perfectly with the ASEAN Foundation’s mission to empower ASEAN communities through digital literacy which will contribute to digitally resilient ASEAN.” Previously, Google.org supported the ASEAN Foundation with a $1.5 million grant to aid the implementation of ASEAN DLP from 2022 to 2024.

The ASEAN Regional Symposium was also attended by the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the ASEAN Foundation, representatives from Google.org, representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat, local implementing partners of ASEAN DLP, ASEAN entities, think tanks and digital literacy experts in the region. The  symposium concluded with a panel discussion on “From Divide to Empowerment: Strategies for Inclusive Digital Literacy in ASEAN.” that discussed  empowerment strategies towards inclusive digital literacy, especially among the underprivileged communities in ASEAN.


About the ASEAN Foundation

Three decades after ASEAN was established, ASEAN leaders recognised that there remained inadequate shared prosperity, ASEAN awareness, and contact among people of ASEAN. It was out of this concern that ASEAN leaders established the ASEAN Foundation during ASEAN’s 30th Anniversary Commemorative Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 15 December 1997.

The ASEAN Foundation is an organization by and for the people of ASEAN. The Foundation exists because of one vision: to build a cohesive and prosperous ASEAN Community. As an ASEAN body, the Foundation is tasked to support ASEAN mainly in promoting awareness, identity, interaction, and development of the people of ASEAN. For more info about the ASEAN Foundation, visit www.aseanfoundation.org.

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  1. БB

    Your point of view caught my eye and was very interesting. Thanks. I have a question for you.