Country reps discusses emerging tech at Asia Society event

Ritu Jha-


As part of AAPI Heritage month, Asia Society Northern California hosted a panel discussion with consuls general of India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Australia on “Emerging Tech in Asia,” on May 19 at the Medill School of Journalism, San Francisco.

Each country’s representative extolled their country’s development, how they overcame the COVID challenges, opted for digitization, and discussed what they asserted was continuing inclusive economic development and support. The event was moderated by Priya Rajan market lead for India and MENA in SVB’s international market development team, Global Gateway.

Ambassador Dr. T.V. Nagendra Prasad, consul general of India in San Francisco, said digital technology has been a boon, and, with nearly 100 startup unicorns, India has huge business potential that is increasing by the day. He said areas such as 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud services have been catalysts for improving business efficiency.

“Today there are only 700 million internet users in India, with a potential to reach 1.5 million. So, half a billion more to come into this particular platform,” Prasad said.

The consul general also said India had fully vaccinated 900 million people and supplied vaccines to 100 countries.

“This was all possible only because of technology,” Prasad said. “I think the COVID pandemic has resulted in more digitization than ever before.”

“In the last one year [fiscal year 2020-21], we had 70 billion digital transactions, online transactions,” he said. “It is going up and we are looking at by the end of 2022 it will be about $1 trillion transactions digitally. This is the kind of technology we are witnessing in India.”

Prasad said India was having an impact worldwide.

“We are proud that we produce more for global requirements than domestic requirements,” he said. “We have about 70% of the most innovative companies in the world station their R&D offices in India.”

Neil Frank R. Ferrer, the consul general of the Republic of the Philippines, smiles as he said, “We produce almost 800,000 graduates. Of course, that’s not as large as what India produces, but our graduates are across several disciplines, such as education, engineering, medicine and health-related fields… We have seen, last year, a new record level of foreign direct investments into the country, reaching over 10.5 billion US dollars. This reflects strong confidence in the Philippine economy, which is rapidly recovering from the pandemic.”

He pointed out that many Filipinos have been working in the US, including in health services in California.

“However, we are also seeing Philippine expatriates going back to the Philippines, and investing in the country,” Ferrer said. “These are people who studied abroad and have built companies and now they’re expanding or building companies in the Philippines. A number of them actually are from here – from the Bay Area – and have founded startups. Companies here have been successful entrepreneurs. Now they’re giving back to their motherland – the Philippines – and are serving as mentors supporting startups, investing in the country, engaging in various activities and supporting communities, supporting local schools, and being part of the economic transformation and development.”

Ferrer said his government is also working hard to ensure that the country has people-centered digital technology and public-private partnerships across many areas.

He said the Philippines government has also expanded its social services, investing heavily in free education at all levels. He said the country is also creating opportunities so that the people don’t have to seek jobs abroad.

Speaking to indica about India’s ties with his country, Ferrer said, “We have seen some Indian companies mature in the Philippines.” He added that new technology has made businesses flourish and more competitive and that cooperation with India is going well, with his country also importing materials involving defense.

Ferrer said the Philippines and India are also collaborating in the maritime sector because his country had a lot of water to protect.

“We need vessels, monitoring surveillance and aircraft,” he said. “We have confidence regarding the quality of the products and security technology India is providing.”

He also thanked the Indian government for help during the pandemic.

“We don’t manufacture vaccines so have to rely on the US, India, and China,” Ferrer said. “We have received Covovax vaccines from India.”

Prasetyo Hadi, consul general of the Republic of Indonesia in San Francisco, said Indonesia’s digital economy is the largest in Southeast Asia, with more than 2000 startups. The government is trying to provide inclusive digitalization in all sectors and the IT sector, in the next 15 years, is working with
Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon to get around nine million digital personnel needed.

Hadi said that Indonesia hopes to work on three areas in particular: health, digital transformation, and renewable energy. All of these issues would be discussed at the G20 Summit to be held in November, he said.

Speaking of the pandemic, he thanked the Indian government for working with Indonesia’s repatriation program to send stranded tourists back home.

Hadi told indica that in many sectors Indonesia has good trade with India, such as in health and agriculture, He said the Indian Space Research Organization has stations at Biak, Indonesia to provide telemetry tracking and command (TTC) support for ISRO’s launch vehicle and satellite missions.

Odette Hampton, deputy consul general and trade and investment commissioner at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) said her country had expertise in quantum computing, quantum communications and quantum sensors. She said Australia has been investing in quantum technology for decades now, and that companies like Microsoft, IBM, AWS, Google are all investing in Australian quantum technology. She added that Americans have been acquiring Australian quantum technology companies for quite some time.