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ASEAN Forum 2019

ASEAN and the Digital Revolution

Now in its seventh iteration, this year’s ASEAN Forum focuses on the digital revolution in ASEAN. 

When: Friday 16 August 2019, 11.45am for a 12pm start–4:45pm

Where: Law School Foyer, Sydney Law School, University of Sydney

The event will bring together leading academic thinkers, activists, practitioners and policy makers to discuss and debate the impact of the digital revolution and the challenges that ASEAN must overcome in order to reach its full digital potential. The forum will focus on the key technical innovations and developments taking place in ASEAN countries, the social impact of the digital revolution, and the question of what – and who – is being left behind.

As part of ASEAN Forum 2019, a public seminar on the question of who controls the internet will be held on the evening of Thursday 15 August. More information and register here.










Professor Michele Ford, SSEAC


Keynote address:

Law Foyer, Level 2

Digital Technology, Climate Change and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Dr Michael DiGregorio, Asia Foundation




Breakout sessions (individual papers)


Technical innovation and development

Law LT 104, Level 1

Chair: Professor Heather Horst, University of Sydney

· Professor Budiman Minasny, University of Sydney

· Associate Professor Jonathan Liebenau, London School of Economics and Political Science

· Mr Yan Naung Oak, Phandeeyar Myanmar Innovation Lab

The social impact of ASEAN's digital revolution

Law Lounge, Level 1

Chair: Mr Kean Wong, Independent journalist

· Dr Aim Sinpeng, University of Sydney

· Mr Bart Hogeveen, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

· Ms Kirsten Han, New Naratif


Panel discussion: What – and who –is being left behind?

Law Foyer, Level 2

Chair: Dr Damien Spry, University of South Australia

· Dr Crystal Abidin, Curtin University

· Professor Fleur Johns, UNSW Sydney

· Dr Petr Matous, University of Sydney


Closing remarks and wrap-up

Mr Kean Wong, Independent journalist


Afternoon tea


Event ends

Keynote address

Using technology to empower workers and build post-disaster resilience in Vietnam

By Dr Michael DiGregorio, Vietnam Country Representative, Asia Foundation

Previous industrial revolutions unleashed the power of fossil fuels, created consumer societies, and freed us from physical tethers through digital technologies. We are now approaching the next industrial revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), characterized by a range of new technologies that fuse the biological, physical and digital worlds. ASEAN member states have embraced 4IR warily, mindful that they can neither fully prepare for nor prevent its transformative impacts. Over the past several years, The Asia Foundation has been trying to examine how 4IR’s disruptive technologies might affect the development trajectories of advanced middle income countries. More recently, a few of us have expanded that interest in 4IR to include the clear possibility of widespread social, political and ecological disruption caused by climate change or one of many crises it may trigger. None of us can see the future, but we can imagine possibilities and prepare as best as we can. During the past few years, my staff have developed projects that use digital financial services and new technologies, like blockchain, to empower vulnerable people and transform governance systems for that uncertain future. Our hope is that, by using these technologies, we may be able to help our partners in ASEAN to shape a future in which the challenges of climate change and 4IR can be met justly and equitably. 

The speakers

Dr Crystal Abidin is a digital anthropologist and ethnographer of vernacular internet cultures. She researches young people’s relationships with internet celebrity, self-curation, and vulnerability. Her books include Internet Celebrity: Understanding Fame Online(2018), Microcelebrity Around the Globe: Approaches to Cultures to Cultures of Internet Fame (2018, co-edited with Megan Lindsay Brown), and Instagram: Visual Social Media Cultures (2019, with Tama Leaver and Tim Highfield). She is listed on Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia (2018) and Pacific Standard 30 Top Thinkers Under 30 (2016). Crystal is Senior Research Fellow & ARC DECRA Fellow in Internet Studies at Curtin University, Affiliate Researcher with the Media Management and Transformation Centre at Jönköping University, and Research Fellow with the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University.

Reach her here.

Dr Michael R. DiGregorio is the Asia Foundation’s Vietnam Country Representative. He has directed the Foundation’s work in Vietnam since 2014, during which time he has led new projects and programs to address business related climate and disaster risk, city level climate resilience, green finance, blockchain traceability for sustainable agriculture, and digital finance for rural and remote farmers and small enterprise owners. Prior to joining the Asia Foundation, he served as a researcher within the Rockefeller Foundation’s Asian Cities Climate Change Resilient Network. From 2002-2009, Dr DiGregorio was responsible for the Ford Foundation’s education, media, arts and culture program in Vietnam.

Michael earned a PhD in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001 with a dissertation on the cultural economy of industrializing craft villages in the Red River Delta. His MA in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Hawaii was published in 1994 as “Urban Harvest: Recycling as a Peasant Industry in Northern Vietnam”. Dr DiGregorio also holds an MA in Development Economics from Ohio University and serves as an affiliate faculty member at the University of Hawaii.

Kirsten Han is a Singaporean freelance journalist and Editor-in-Chief of New Naratif, a platform for Southeast Asian journalism, research, art and community-building. Her work often revolves around the themes of social justice, human rights, politics and democracy, with bylines in publications like The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Asia Times. In 2019, she was awarded a Human Rights Press Award for her commentaries on the issue of “fake news” and freedom of expression in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Her essay, "The Silhouette of Oppression", was published by Epigram Books in 2019. Kirsten is also a founding member of We Believe in Second Chances, a group advocating for the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore.

Bart Hogeveen is Head of Cyber Capacity Building at ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre. Hogeveen supports international and regional mechanisms to enhance cyber-stability with governments and nongovernmental organisations across Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Bart currently directs a multiyear effort supporting further adoption of international norms and cyber-confidence-building measures in the ASEAN region. He authored the Sydney Recommendations on Practical Futures on Cyber Confidence Building in the ASEAN region and publishes on The Strategist on related international cyber security topics.

Fleur Johns is Professor and Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Law and works in the areas of public international law and legal theory. Fleur is also Academic Lead for Meridian 180 at UNSW. Fleur studies patterns of governance on the global plane, employing an interdisciplinary approach that draws on the social sciences and humanities and combines the study of public and private law.

In recent years, Fleur's work has focused on the role of automation and digital technology in global legal relations, especially in development, humanitarian aid and disaster relief. She is currently leading an Australian Research Council-funded project entitled 'Data Science in Humanitarianism: Confronting Novel Law and Policy Challenges': see here for details. Fleur is the author of Non-Legality in International Law: Unruly Law (Cambridge, 2013) and The Mekong: A Socio-legal Approach to River Basin Development (co-authored with Ben Boer, Philip Hirsch, Ben Saul & Natalia Scurrah, Routledge 2016). Fleur is also editor of two further books: Events: The Force of International Law (Routledge-Cavendish, 2011; co-edited with Richard Joyce and Sundhya Pahuja); and International Legal Personality (Ashgate, 2010); as well as having authored articles in journals in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. 

Before joining UNSW, Fleur was Co-Director of the Sydney Centre for International Law at the University of Sydney. She has also held visiting appointments in Canada, the UK and Europe. In 2019-2020, she will be a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in the School of Social Sciences. Prior to entering academia, Fleur practised corporate law in New York, specialising in international project finance in Latin America. She has served on a range of not-for-profit boards and management committees and on several editorial boards; she currently serves on the Editorial Boards of the American Journal of International Law and the interdisciplinary journal Global Change, Peace & Security, as well as being an Advisory Editor for the London Review of International Law and the Australian Feminist Law Journal.

Heather Horst is Professor in the Department of Media in Communications at the University of Sydney. Heather joined the Department in March 2017. Prior to this she was Professor in the School of Media and Communication and the Co-Founder of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT University.

Heather Horst is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research focuses upon understanding how digital media, technology and other forms of material culture mediate relationships, communication, learning, mobility and our sense of being human. Her books examining these themes include The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication (Horst and Miller, Berg, 2006), Kids Living and Learning with Digital Media: Findings from the Digital Youth Project (Ito, Horst, et al., 2009, MIT Press), Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with Digital Media (Ito, et al. 2010, MIT Press), Digital Anthropology (Horst and Miller, Eds., 2012, Berg) and Digital Ethnography (Pink, Horst, et al. 2016, Sage). She has been a guest editor for special issues of the International Journal of Communication, Journal of Material Culture, International Journal of Cultural Studies, New Media and Society, Media International Australia and Home Cultures. Heather's current research explores transformations in the telecommunications industry and the emergence of new mobile media practices across the Asia-Pacific region.

Jonathan Liebenau is in the Department of Management of the London School of Economics where he teaches and researches on management, economic and policy aspects of the digital economy. He is a designated ‘senior scholar’ of the Academy of Information Systems, an associate of the Columbia University Institute for Tele-Information, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a founder of the Journal of Information Technology for Development. He has held visiting positions at the Thailand Development Research Institute and the Indonesian Centre for Strategic and International Studies focusing on the transfer of technology. His current areas of focus are on innovation in Chinese high technology companies and on regulation, technology and the political economy of fintech companies. He has taught or held visiting professorships at the universities of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin-Madison and Columbia University (NYC), Yonsei University (Seoul), Istanbul Bilgi University, American University in Cairo and currently at the University of Sydney Business School.

He is the author of numerous books, reports and scholarly articles on IT and development including:

  • 2019 (with Jiang Yu⁠⁠ and Heejin Lee⁠) “Introduction: Special issue on digital economy in East Asia”, Technological Forecasting & Social Change
  • 2018 “Labor Markets in the Digital Economy: Modeling employment from the bottom-up” in Lorenzo Pupillo, Eli Noam and Leonard Waverman, Digitized Labor—The Impact of the Internet on Employment, New York: Palgrave Macmillan
  • 2017 “Central Asia: Technology & Modernisation In the context of China’s Belt & Road Initiative” Eurasia Council on Foreign Affairs
  • 2017, “Research on Innovation in Chinese Manufacturing and Digital Services” Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute for Policy and Management
  • 2015, (with Nofi Iman) Retail Payment Systems in the OIC Member Countries, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
  • 2013 (editor, with Sudhanshu Rai and G. Harindranath) Special issue on IT innovation in emerging economies, Journal of Information Technology
  • 2009 (with Patrik Kärrberg) “Enterprise efficiency in the use of ICT in China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Japan & the USA” London School of Economics and Political Science; LSE Enterprise
  • 1998 (with G. Harindranath) National Information Infrastructure Policies in International Perspective, Vienna: UNIDO Emerging Technology Series
  • 1997 (with Tanai Khiaonarong) "Information technology promotion in Thailand: constraints and challenges" Science and Public Policy 24 (4) 273-280
  • 1996 (with G. Harindranath) "The Indian information technology industry: adapting to globalisation and policy change in the 1990s" in Mayuri Odedra-Straub (ed.) Global Information Technology and Socio-Economic Development Nashua, New Hampshire: Ivy League Publishing, pp.192-202 (ISBN 0-9648382-1-4)
  • 1995 "State policy and India’s software industry in the 1990s" Proceedings of the 1995 Information Resources Management Association International Conference, "Managing Information and Communications in a Changing Global Environment"
  • 1992 "Teaching information systems to students from developing countries," in S.C. Bhatnagar, ed., Information Technology Manpower, Key Issues for Developing Countries New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill

Dr Petr Matous is a senior lecturer in the University of Sydney's School of Civil Engineering, and the Associate Dean for Indigenous Strategy and Services in the Faculty of Engineering. He is also an active member of the Sydney SOutheast Asia Centre's Executive Committee. His research investigates how social networks affect ordinary people's access to resources, such as clean drinking water in Manila. 

Petr graduated with a PhD from the University of Tokyo in 2007, and received the University of Tokyo's President Award.

Budiman Minasny is a Professor in soil-landscape modelling at the University of Sydney. He was awarded various prestigious fellowships including the QEII and the Future Fellowships from the Australian Research Council. He has an undergraduate degree from Universitas Sumatera Utara in Indonesia and a MAgr and PhD degrees in soil science from the University of Sydney. He is passionate about the role of soil in managing climate change, food, water, energy security and maintaining biodiversity. He has more than 150 international journal publications, won numerous awards, and is recognised as the leader in digital soil mapping and modelling. He is also a member of the Sydney South East Asia Centre and China Studies Centre.

Yan Naung Oak is a data visualization designer and data literacy trainer, as well as an open data, ICT for development, and civic tech advocate. He is currently a senior advisor at Phandeeyar, an innovation hub in Yangon, Myanmar. As one of Phandeeyar's founding team members, he has played a leading role since 2014 in setting up many of the hub's innovation programs, such as the Phandeeyar Startup Challenge, which has now grown to become Myanmar's largest annual startup competition, the Phandeeyar Makerspace, and Open Development Myanmar - an online platform devoted to publishing open data for development. He has also worked with School of Data to build data products for public accountability in Myanmar and Ghana, and trained media and civil society in data skills in Southeast Asia, Africa and the UK. In 2018, he co-founded Thibi, a data and design focused digital agency which currently works in projects ranging from urban data analytics to investigative data journalism. 

Dr Aim Sinpeng's research interests centre on the relationships between digital media, political participation and political regimes in Southeast Asia. She is particularly interested in the role of social media in shaping state-society relations and inducing political and social change. Together with Dr Fiona Martin, Aim was recently awarded funding by Facebook to help the social media giant understand how better to regulate hate speech online in the Asia-Pacific region.

Aim is the co-founder of the Sydney Cyber Security Network and has served as the Expert Contributor for Varieties of Democracy and the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index, which measure degrees and types of democracy. Her other scholarly works examine popular movements against democracy in democratising states, particularly in Thailand. Prior to her academic career she worked for the World Bank, a Toronto-based investment bank, governments of Thailand and the Czech Republic and the New York State Democrat Party. Aim is also a regular commentator on Southeast Asian politics for the ABC, SBS, CBC, Channel News Asia, Al Jazeera, CNBC and Sky News.

Dr Damien Spry is a Lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of South Australia. His scholarly research focusses on social media impacts on politics and diplomacy. He is a regular contributor to think tanks, including the Lowy Institute and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and has consulted for several multinational companies and NGOs, including Google, Facebook and Amnesty International, as well as to several governments.

He’s been a public relations manager, radio presenter, cultural commentator, human rights campaigner, travel writer, script editor, social media marketer, intercultural communications trainer and a body double for a major motion picture. He’s lived and worked in Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Egypt, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

He has developed the Facebooking diplomacy database and is currently developing a Twitter diplomacy database with the Digital Media Research Centre at the Queensland University of Technology, where he is a Visiting Fellow. 

Kean Wong is a Malaysian journalist and editor, who’s worked the past 30 years in Australia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States for print, online, and broadcast media including the BBC, The Economist, the ABC, Malaysia’s BFM Radio, and newspapers including The Sun of Malaysia, the Australian Financial Review and the Sydney Morning Herald. He has also written about Southeast Asian politics, media, and culture for various books and festivals, and spoken about these subjects at many universities around the world, such as Johns Hopkins University in the United States, and Humboldt University of Berlin in Germany. He's a contributing editor to the Australian National University's blog, and is editor of the book Rebirth: reformasi, resistance and hope on the road to new Malaysia

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Who controls the internet?

Thursday 15 August

Growth has outpaced governance, and opportunities to come together online are increasingly being undone by threats of division, such as the spread of hate speech and harassment, to political falsehoods and 'deepfakes'. What can we do to regulate this?