Robert W. Blanning*
Vanderbilt University
United States of America

Tung X. Bui*
U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and
The Pacific Research Institute for Information Systems Management (PRIISM)
United States of America

Margaret Tan
National University of Singapore
Republic of Singapore


Recently, many nations in Pacific Asia have begun to design and implement national information infrastructures. Examples are Singapore's IT2000 plan to transform the city-state into an intelligent island and Malaysia's Vision 2020 to create a "Multimedia Super Corridor". We examine the information infrastructure programs in twelve Asia Pacific nations. These are the newly developing "Young Lions" (China, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam), the intermediate-stage "Growing Tigers" (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan), and the more advanced "Mature Leopards" (Australia, Japan, and New Zealand). We also discuss APEC's recent initiative to establish an APII - an Asia Pacific Information Infrastructure.

Keywords: Information infrastructure development; Information technology plan 


1. Introduction

It has been suggested that we will soon enter a "Pacific Century," in which the world's economic center of gravity, having shifted from Asia to Europe after the Mongol invasion that ended the Sung Dynasty and thence to North America early in this century, is now returning to Asia. But it is returning to a very diverse Asia, with many regional differences in language, culture, ideology, income levels and income distribution, and economic policies [1, 8].

In order to focus our discussion, we will concentrate on those nations in the Pacific Rim west of the Americas, which we will call Pacific Asia. Pacific Asia is interesting both as a geopolitical and geoeconomic region, and also as an economic and logistical zone connecting the western portion of the Americas with Central Asia. As a measure of its market potential, Pacific Asia will continue to be the fastest growing telecommunication regions, with China contributing almost a fifth of the world’s new main lines in 1993 [9].

The nations of Pacific Asia, like their counterparts in Europe and North America, have come to recognize the need for a national information infrastructure (NII) to aid in economic development and in social and human resource development. Indeed, information infrastructures for the 21st century have caught the attention of many policy makers [7]. The U.S. National Information Infrastructure Agenda for Action has been a model for other nations to provide similar plan [12]. Examples include Canada with its Canadian Information Highway and Denmark, with its Information Society 2000. The proliferation of Information Infrastructure policy statements was also taken up in the Pacific Asian countries. For instance, the most cited policy statement came from Singapore, with its "IT2000 Vision of an Intelligent Island". Of course, other countries in the region too have similar policy statements [14, 15]. We discuss here the thinking about NII in twelve Pacific Asia nations, which we partition into three categories: the newly-developing "Young Lions", the intermediate-stage "Growing Tigers", and the more advanced "Mature Leopards." These nations, and certain data describing them, are identified in Table 1.

The only measure in Table 1 that clearly separates the three categories is the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) agency, a composite index that combines life expectancy, literacy, and income. The Young Lions all have HDIs below 75, the Growing Tigers have HDIs between 85 and 90,* and the Mature Leopards have HDIs of 95 or above. There is some overlap in the other measures (Thailand has a higher literacy rate than Hong Kong or Singapore, but they both have higher GDPs per capita than New Zealand, etc.), but in general the Lions, Tigers, and Leopards are positioned in different stages of economic development.  


2. A NII Framework

This paper discusses the NII of countries in the Pacific Asia region based on a normative framework that describes the plans undertaken by the country’s main players to create resources and opportunities for economic and social development [e.g., 16, 17]. There are three basic components in the framework. The first component identifies the players and their plans and actions to develop the NII effort. The second component defines the immediate consequences of the plans to include the creation of resources and the building of the information infrastructure. Finally, the third component identifies the impact of the NII programs in terms of its potentials for economic growth and social advancement. This framework illustrated in Figure 2 is described in more detail below.

The first component defines two main principal participants in a nation's NII effort - the government and the private multinational corporations or enterprises, both local and foreign. Other supporting world organizations, such the World Bank and the United Nations, may also participate. The government plays a major role in each nation’s NII effort. It can play two roles, first as a regulator, and second as an investor. As a regulator, it can define the rules and regulations within which industry would participate and co-operate in the NII development [e.g., 4, 7]. For example, in regulating and deregulating telecommunications providers and related organizations, such as Internet service providers, it may determine the rate of its NII development. Second, as an investor, it could directly invest in the telecommunications infrastructure thus leaving private enterprises with other value-added projects. Or alternatively, it could promote joint investment with private organizations. If the latter alternative is taken, the NII initiatives may perhaps take a shorter time to realize and achieve [4, 5, 12].

The second component of the model identifies three processes of these government and private NII initiatives. The first is the development of IT human resources which includes developing technical skills as well as building a society that is computer literate and fluent to face the 21st century technological environment. The second process involves the development and active investment in telecommunication projects either by itself or with joint ventures. Finally, the third process involves the pervasive deployment of IT to all facets of commercial as well as government applications to exploit the NII [17].

The third component is defined as the outcome of the NII effort and it is classified into two categories. The first is the economic impacts both direct economic stimuli caused by government and private investments in telecommunications and its related services, and the indirect impacts on individuals, organizations, and society in terms of productivity resulting from more effective interpersonal and inter-organizational communications - for example, through electronic data interchange or the Internet. The second outcome category is the social and cultural effects. These are more difficult to measure and may include positive as well as potential negative effects that may give rise to some apprehension. On the positive side is the enhanced quality of life and sense of community resulting from improved interpersonal communication. On the negative side are the distribution of undesirable information (pornography, instructions on how to build a bomb, etc., [2]) cultural erosion caused by international cultural homogenization, and political criticism that is viewed as potentially destabilizing or otherwise threatening to the country [7].

Because of the different types and levels of economic development in the countries of Pacific Asia, each nation and also elsewhere, has approached its NII efforts in different ways [14, 15]. It should be pointed out that the differences are primarily differences in degree; all nations are concerned in one way or another with the factors outlined above. For example, some governments may wish to maintain tighter control over their telecommunications infrastructures, and others may seek substantial industry participation [3, 13]. Also, all are concerned with the development of their human resources and IT applications, however, for some nations, the government plays an important role in the diffusion of IT and therefore would guide these developments directly, while others would prefer to take the market approach. Again, some countries are very apprehensive about possible negative social and cultural effects and yet others are more sanguine.

It would be intriguing to speculate about the reasons for these differences, however, this is beyond the scope of this paper. Clearly culture and tradition play a role, as well as the recent pleasant and unpleasant experiences in industrial development [2]. But in the final analysis it is clear that the nations of Pacific Asia are attempting to develop their information infrastructures in order to propel them into the 21st century information age. It is also clear that many of the factors that affect one nation may also affect other nations. This suggests that the nations of Pacific Asia would have much to learn from each other.

This paper reports the findings of three panel discussions on National Information Technology Policies and Strategies (NITPAS) at the 1995 Pan Pacific Conference on Information Systems, held in Singapore in the summer of 1995 [14] updated with subsequent interviews with key national I.T. leaders reunited at the International Conference on NII for Social and Economic Development in Asia in Bangkok, November 1995 [15]. The NITPAS participants are listed in Table 2.

In the following three sections we briefly presents the NIIs of the Young Lions, The Growing Tigers, and the Mature Leopards. Then we examine the possible integration of these NIIs into a more general Asia Pacific Information Infrastructure.


3. The Young Lions

  The Young Lions are the most economically diverse group of nations in our tripartite grouping. The ratio of highest to lowest GDP per capita is 21 (although adjusted for purchasing power parity it is 5.6), and the ratio of highest to lowest telephone densities is twenty. On the other hand, the HDI ratio is much smaller (1.5). In each of these cases the high-end nation is either Malaysia or Thailand and the low-end nation is Vietnam, with China and the Philippines in between.

The cultural diversity is equally as great. For example, Malaysia is a Moslem nation, Thailand is a Buddhist nation, the Philippines is a Roman Catholic nation, and China and Vietnam have no official religion. And of course, there is a degree of religious diversity within each of these countries.

One should also keep in mind the size of these nations. Although China has the second lowest GDP per capita (whether or not adjusted for purchasing power parity), it has by far the largest total GDP ($442 billion) of any of the Young Lions. In fact, it has the largest GDP of any of the twelve nations except for Japan. Thailand has the second largest GDP ($107 billion), the Philippines and Malaysia are next (approximately $50 billion), and Vietnam is smallest ($9 billion). Vietnam is also the smallest in both GDP per capita and total GDP of any of our twelve nations.

The People's Republic of China is the most heavily populated nation in the world, containing one-fifth of the world's population, and is by far the largest in terms of landmass of any of the nations in our sample. But as pointed out above, it is also the largest (in total GDP) and second smallest (in GDP per capita) of our twelve Pacific Asia nations. China's development strategy is best described by Deng Xiaoping's "four modernizations" program for the modernization of agriculture, industry, science and technology, and the military. Initiated in 1978, it was a reaction against the memory of the Cultural Revolution and its insistence on protracted class struggle, and thus signaled a reversal of the previous primacy of political over economic goals.

There are four facets to China's NII effort. The first is called Three Golden Engineering, which consists of three components. Golden Bridge Engineering is a phased development project to construct an economic information network. The project will begin with financial information systems associated with China's bank modernization program. Then it will be expanded to include an information infrastructure for tourism, meteorology, scientific and technical information, government departments, provinces and cities, and state-owned enterprises. Golden Card Engineering is a separate but related effort to provide electronic currency to the populace. Golden Custom Engineering is an effort intended to facilitate foreign trade, primarily through Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

The second facet of China's NII effort is an indirect one - the modernization of China's industries. It is hoped that as these industries and especially information industries (e.g., stock exchange, airline reservations) modernize, they will spur the development of information technology companies as well. The third facet is software development. Areas targeted for development are word processing, accounting, CAD/CAM, language translation, education, and multimedia. The fourth facet is training of information technology personnel. The purpose is not only to provide personnel for the NII effort, but also to encourage multinational firms in information-intensive industries to locate facilities in China and to hire local personnel.

The Federation of Malaysia has been described by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) as one of the ASEAN-3, the other two being Singapore and Thailand. The idea is as follows. Although Singapore is regarded as similar in economic development policies to Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan, it differs in one important respect. All four Tigers have adopted policies of export-oriented growth, but Singapore has pioneered the notion of MNC-led export-oriented growth. ISEAS views Malaysia and Thailand in a similar light. That is, Malaysia and Thailand, like Singapore, recognize that their populations are too small to support large-scale industrial and post-industrial development with internal markets, and they regard MNCs as a welcome source of capital, talent, and external distribution channels in support of industrial development for external markets.

Malaysia's NII program should be viewed in light of a much larger modernization effort, called Vision 2020, that is intended to achieve growth rate of seven percent per year in gross domestic product until the year 2020, which would result in an eight-fold expansion of the economy between 1990 and 2020. Vision 2020 includes provisions for creating an industry-government partnership for development, human resource development, and inculcating ethical values in business (e.g., with regard to corruption).

The NII program consists of several separate but related efforts. One is the Public Sector Open Systems Program establishing minimum interoperability standards for government information technology procurement. Another is a National Telecommunication Policy, which establishes the foundation of a sophisticated telecommunications infrastructure. This includes several efforts already underway, such as a Government Integrated Telecommunications Network, a Civil Service Link, and Dagang-NET, an EDI system for customs and ports. Recently, Malaysia unveils its strategic and high priority plan for a "Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC)" to create an information technology hub to propel the country into the 21st century. One of the MSC projects is to develop a remote manufacturing co-ordination and engineering support hub that enables companies in high cost country access to plants across Malaysia and Asia.

The Republic of the Philippines is the most culturally diverse of the twelve nations, with 70 different languages spoken by 111 separate cultural and racial groups. However, these groups are scattered among 7000 islands, and the concerns about cultural diversity and conflict are not as great as one might expect. But the country has experienced political unrest, which has greatly slowed economic progress, and the government is attempting to stabilize the nation politically and modernize it economically, primarily through privatization, deregulation, and liberalization.

The national information technology policy, called NITP 2000, was established in 1988 and was integrated into a more comprehensive national development program called Philippines 2000. NITP 2000 recognizes certain advantages offered by the Philippines, such as a large pool of information technology professionals, inexpensive labor rates, and English language proficiency, along with certain problems, such as undercapitalized software and inadequate telecommunications infrastructure.

The purpose of NITP 2000 is to create an "information culture" leading to a "Smart Philippines" in which information technology is a part of the work, home, and educational life of its citizens. It consists of two major efforts. The first is the development of the human capital needed for a diffusion of technology throughout the country. The second is the opening of the country to international trade, thus making newer technologies available to entrepreneurs. The foci of these efforts is symbolized by the acronym TIGER - Telecommunications, Industry, Government, Education, and Research. The telecommunication infrastructure plays a critical role in the implementation of NITP 2000. Foremost in this program is the setting up of its national telecommunication and the development of the database backbone.

The Kingdom of Thailand, as mentioned above, is one of the ASEAN-3, and thus has established a policy of export-led growth based in part on the presence of multinational corporations. Thailand's NII effort is part of a more general effort to develop Thailand as a regional hub for financial services, manufacturing, transportation, tourism, and human resource development. Domestically, the vision of its national information technology infrastructure is to provide a means to support Thailand’s social and economic development in ways that create equitable opportunity and benefits to all segments of its society.

Thailand's NII effort consists of three components. The first is the development of an information infrastructure throughout the country. This is important because of a growing concern about income inequality and an excessive movement of people from rural villages to the cities (especially Bangkok). The national plan recommends initiatives to expand communications to rural Thailand and to put into place a flexible telecommunications regime that can meet the challenge of rapidly changing technology. The second is investment in a technologically literate populace, in part by using information technology in the schools. Three specific sets of goals have been identified: increase PC density to reach at least one PC per 80 primary schools pupils and one PC per 40 secondary school pupils in five years; provide electronic access to libraries; create a "National Interactive Multimedia Institute" to facilitate the development of educational courseware and application software; and upgrade IT curricula to generate I.T. manpower at all levels. The third is the use of information technology to improve government services such that it is able to deliver a wide range of public goods and services to everyone even in remote areas. A major goal is to establish a Government Information Network (GINet) with an aim toward a more efficient public administration.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is the least developed country of the twelve by all of the measures used here except one: its literacy rate surpasses those of China and Malaysia and is equal to that of Singapore. It is also emerging from a period of isolation, partly self-imposed and partly imposed by a U.S.-led embargo, and is now eager to modernize its economy and be more fully integrated into the regional and world economic system.

In 1994 the government established a National Program on Information Technology Steering Committee (NPITSC) to coordinate government agencies in establishing an NII. NPITSC formulated a national program, called IT-2000, which has four goals. The first is information technology education and training, to be accomplished both locally and by means of short (two-year) assignments abroad. The program estimates the needs of 20,000 skilled computer specialists by the year 2000, one half of which programmers, and one-quarter of which system analysts. This includes the training of local trainers, who will then train information technology professionals and users. The second is research and development. The program emphasizes on technology transfer and international collaboration in the form of business joint ventures to help national and local research institutions build the requisite knowledge base for research and development. The plan also includes the establishment of an education and R&D network to be known as the Vietnam Academic Research Education Network (VARENet). The third is the development of a domestic information technology industry, by means of such methods as software development associations and technology parks. Key development projects include a national information system for public administration and state management; an information for economic planning; modernization of the banking systems; and a national system to support data census. The fourth is the establishment of data communication networks, with priority given to government, finance and commerce, education, and research and development. The program adopts the "open system" concept that aligns future national data communications networks with global trends and international standards.


4. The Growing Tigers

The Growing Tigers all have HDIs between 85 and 90 (assuming that Taiwan's HDI is 88 or 89). However, they differ substantially in their GDPS per capita, with Hong Kong and Singapore over $15,000 and South Korea and Taiwan about one-half to two-thirds of that. (Surprisingly if adult literacy or life expectancy were the measures used, the order would be reversed, but the differences are small.) On the other hand, the populations of South Korea and Taiwan are substantially larger than those of Hong Kong and Singapore, and so their GDPs are much larger as well. But all four Tigers have the resources to develop information infrastructures, and all are doing so.

Hong Kong is about twice the size of Singapore, in terms of both population and land area, but is similar to it in that each is a city state that is very much export-oriented. In both cases the value of exports exceeds GDP, and the two city-states vie for the largest port in the world. An important difference is that Hong Kong will become a Special Administrative Region of China in mid-1997, which induces a measure of uncertainty as to its economic and political future. Even so, Hong Kong is at present one of the most aggressively capitalist countries in the world. The British government has adopted a policy of "positive non-interventionism" and, with a few notable exceptions, intervenes as little as possible in economic and social affairs.

In large measure, a comprehensive program to develop an NII is not one of the exceptions. However, the government does provide financial support for various organizations that guide, develop, and transfer information technology in targeted industries. An example is the Hong Kong Productivity Council, which undertakes studies (e.g., plastics industry) and conducts training (e.g., in the use of information technology in clothing manufacturing) in information technology. The Cooperative Research Centre for Open Systems Technology promotes standardization and interoperability in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Industrial Technology Centre Corporation provides incubation programs (e.g., low-rent office space and consultancy services) to hi-tech startup companies; its information technology focus is in telecommunications, multimedia and networking, systems software, and microelectronics. In addition the government supports tertiary education in information technology - for example, through the recently established University of Science and Technology and the Telecommunications Research Centre at the City University of Hong Kong.

The Republic of Singapore is the smallest of the twelve nations, in terms of both area and population, and the second smallest in terms of total GDP, surpassing only New Zealand. However, its relatively high GDP per capita (the highest of the four Tigers), its geographical compactness, and other characteristics (e.g., the outward-oriented view associated with being a major port city) have led it to focus its efforts on the development of an NII. Its current NII project, called IT2000, it the latest in a sequence of efforts to exploit information technology for national competitiveness and to improve the quality of life of its citizens. The purpose of IT2000 is to create an "intelligent island" with information appliances in homes, offices, schools, hospital, etc. for internal and external information transfer.

An important part of the overall NII effort is the creation of a National Computer Board to guide the development of the infrastructure and the creation of education and training programs in many areas of information technology to provide the human infrastructure needed to construct and support the technological infrastructure. The National Computer Board, along with other organizations such as the Information Technology Institute (the board's applied research and development arm) and the Institute of Systems Science at the National University of Singapore, have undertaken a number of research and application efforts in order to implement the intelligent island concept. This includes the construction of a variety of networks (such as Tradenet, Lawnet, Medinet, and Corenet - a construction and real estate network), the development of a student and teacher workbench, a digital library of the future, and a broadband network connecting different parts of the island as a testbed for bandwidth-intensive applications.

The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is the largest of the four Tigers, in terms of area, population, and GDP, and it has been using its economic strength to create a dual-channel information superhighway called the Korean Information Infrastructure (KII), one component for government information known as New Korea Net-Government (NKN-G) and one for public information as Bew Jirea Bet-Public (NKN-P). The NKN-G is part of a larger information infrastructure effort requiring an investment of fifty seven billion dollars. The NKN-G component is to provide basic physical infrastructure in government agencies, and also in important cases where the private sector cannot financially justify an investment, to experiment with networking technologies, and to induce the private sector to make investments where appropriate. The NKN-P, on the other hand, is to provide multi-media applications and secure these services to businesses and organization to enhance its competitiveness.

Taiwan (which calls itself the Republic of China and is in turn called Chinese Taipei by APEC) is the second largest Tiger, in terms of area, population, and GDP. It also is creating an NII whose purpose is to transform Taiwan into an "Asia-Pacific regional operations centre" and to encourage the formation of information service providers in government and commerce, as well as healthcare, education, and entertainment. As with the other Tigers, Taiwan's NII requires people skilled in information technology and therefore the appropriate education and training programs, interoperable networking technology, and an outward orientation that looks to successful programs elsewhere for insights and cooperation where necessary.

Some of the major organizations mandated to help in the implementation of I.T. infrastructure comprise the National Science Council sponsoring university-oriented research, the Institute for Information Industries (III) developing new technologies and providing training and education programs, and the Institute of Electronic and Telecommunication overseeing development of new computing and communication technologies.


5. The Mature Leopards

Earlier the five Young Lions were presented as the most economically diverse group of nations in our tripartite grouping. However, the three Mature Leopards are also quite diverse, with Japan as a largely homogeneous Asian nation, New Zealand as a de facto European outpost in the Pacific, and Australia as a Western-oriented nation becoming Asianized by means of trade and immigration.

Australia is the largest of the Leopards in landmass, but its population and GDP are substantially below those of Japan, although substantially more than that of New Zealand. Although Australia is clearly the in Mature Leopard category, there is some concern that the country is slipping and may fall behind some of its Asian neighbors. The reason is that Australia is rich in natural resources, but it has done little to add value to these resources. Its response to this concern is to specialize in certain areas where it may have a competitive advantage, especially tourism, education, and information technology.

The Australian government has established a National Information Services Council to provide a forum for discussion of issues and to solicit comments from the various industries and communities who are stakeholders in the NII effort. The government sees its role as a facilitator, stimulating and guiding the NII effort by means of (1) regulatory reform to provide a more competitive information technology marketplace, (2) setting the example by demonstrating the advantage of information technology in government operations, and (3) ensuring access of the NII to people throughout the country.

Australia's NII is expected to evolve incrementally from its existing narrowband infrastructure into a broadband infrastructure. To this end the government has established a Broadband Services Expert Group. With nationwide access to information and services, it hopes to promote a culture of innovation. In this regard, it also hopes to develop within the country a strong multimedia content industry that will build a new infrastructure for a major economic opportunity in the region.

Japan has the largest economy of any of the twelve nations, with a GDP that exceeds the sum of the remaining eleven; it is also the second most heavily populated, surpassed only by China. The rapid growth in Japan's economy in the 1980s was matched by a rapid growth in the information services market, an eight-fold increase during the decade. Experts suggested the emergence of a "Teletopia" - that is a telecommunications utopia - and the government established a pilot program for Teletopia, called INS (Information Network System). However, when the "bubble economy" burst in 1990, there was an accompanying cutback in the software and information services markets and Teletopia seemed much less of a short-term reality than was previously the case.

Planning for an NII has not stopped with the bursting of the bubble. Japan’s NII is seen as a catalyst in improving its social infrastructure. In 1994 the government's Telecommunications Council announced a vision for the creation of a knowledge-based society by the year 2010. This includes an optical fiber network expected to reach 20% of the population by 2000, 60% by 2005, and 100% by 2010. Many private corporations and think tanks have formulated proposals for the development of information technology in administration, local government, research and development, and multimedia applications.

The Dominion of New Zealand is the smallest of the three Leopards, in population, area, and GDP. It is highly dependent on external markets for its products, especially agricultural products (which make up 70% of its exports), and as a result it is sensitive to foreign demand, protectionism in its market countries, and worldwide price increases in many non-agricultural products (e.g., energy). In the 1980s the government began a program of deregulation, privatization, and reduction in social welfare programs in order to strengthen the economy and reduce its vulnerability. This included privatization and deregulation of the telecommunications industry.

The government is also examining the NII concept and to this end has established an Information Technology Advisory Group (ITAG). ITAG has released a report called ImpacT 2001, which foresees New Zealand as a "knowledge society" containing a large number and variety of knowledge workers whose educational requirements and work environments will be quite different from those of existing agricultural and manufacturing workers. This is expected to result in a greater emphasis on education, a reduction in the size of organizations, greater distribution of workers (through telework), and a closer integration of New Zealand's economy with those of other nations (e.g., through the sale of New Zealand's agricultural products in electronic markets).


6. Regional Information Infrastructure

We have seen that the nations of Pacific Asia, at least those addressed in this paper, are attempting to implement NIIs, both to aid in their future development and to improve the quality of life of their citizens. We might ask whether these NIIs would become integrated. This possibility is now being studied by APEC.

APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum was formed in 1989 at the suggestion of Australia to coordinate economic policy in the region, with an emphasis on trade and investment liberalization [3]. Headquartered in Singapore, APEC now consists of eleven of the twelve nations described here (Vietnam is not a member), along with seven other nations. Three of these - Brunei, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea - are in Asia, and four - Canada, Chile, Mexico, and the United States - are in the Americas.

From its inception, APEC recognized that computer-communication networks would be helpful in coordinating its efforts. It established a Telecommunications Working Group and constructed an APEC Communications and Database System (ACDS) as an APEC Intranet, with limited Internet access for dissemination of publicly available information. Then at the May 1995 Ministerial Meeting in Seoul, the establishment of an APII was proposed.

APII is intended to be a seamless interface between the NIIs of the various APEC nations, and it is also intended to interface with a global information infrastructure (GII) when and if a GII is developed. In part, it is a technical effort, promoting interoperability standards. But it is also a human resources effort that promotes the training and exchange of technically qualified personnel. APII is also a regulatory effort that promotes the liberalization of telecommunications regulations to facilitate information sharing, and a development effort that reduces the disparity between the technological infrastructures of the advanced and developing nations in the region [3, 6]. In addition, it recognizes the need to address specific issues of current concern, such as electronic data interchange (EDI) and the protection of intellectual property rights.

In a separate effort, the First Asian NII Leaders Meeting was held in November 1995 in Bangkok, sponsored by the Global Information Infrastructure Commission and the World Bank. Representatives from a number of Asian nations discussed ways in which their NIIs could successfully be developed. The principal findings were that NII efforts should (1) be driven by specific development-oriented applications, (2) be joint government-industry partnerships, and (3) recognize the need for human as well as financial capital, especially in education and training. It was also recommended that this effort continue and that a second meeting be held to exchange experiences and consider collaborative efforts among the Asian nations.


7. From visions to reality

We have seen that many of the nations of Pacific Asia have recognized the need for NII programs and are developing and beginning to implement such programs. There are several observations and conclusions we can draw from these experiences.

One is that, with their respective NII plan, the Asian countries have demonstrated their commitment to join the global trend of seeing digital information and communication services as a central aspect of economic, social, cultural and political life. To achieve this effort, these NIIs share the following requirements:

In a way, these requirements are comprehensive enough to suggest that they reflect the tradition that Asian countries are very followers of technology. Indeed, the four requirements resemble to a typical NII plan established earlier by Western countries lead by the United States. Yet, the Pacific Asia NIIs differ from their Western counterparts in two counts. First, they seem to rely more on I.T. as an opportunity for them to "leapfrog" to the information age. Second, there is an apparent good will to use I.T. as a conscious national policy to reduce the economic and social gaps. Most of these nations view their NIIs as part of an overall economic modernization effort. NII is not merely a technological infrastructure requiring financial resources but also a human resource development effort. These nations recognize the need for education and training to produce the educated manpower necessary to implement an NII. Thus, the three cornerstones of an NII are technology, financial resources, and human resources in a government-guided but market-led framework.

At the time of this writing, the cornerstones of many NII efforts are at best in the early stages, with a focus on deregulation and privatization of the telecommunication industry, and on fiscal policies to promote computerization. Different nations are approaching this in different ways and at different rates of speed, but most believe that even though telecommunications is central to economic development, the advantages of competitiveness outweigh the advantages of centralized government control.

NII efforts are typically joint government/industry efforts, with varying degrees of government guidance and with varying degrees of internal and external (i.e., MNC) industry participation. The leaders of the Pacific Asia nations feel that industry has the capital to invest in NII efforts, if they produce a suitable return, and that a market-driven, or at least market influenced, approach has many advantages over a centralized one.

On paper, the Pacific Asia NIIs plans seem to have all the necessary ingredients for a sound development of an information-driven society. In practical reality, there are challenges ahead. An Asian NII is typically more prone to problems related to the lack of necessary knowledge and experience to carry out the plan, market restrictions, political quagmires and vested financial interests. This suggests that in the long term the success of NII efforts will be judged in terms of their eventual contribution to national economic progress. In other words, if they are not seen as contributors to economic process, they may falter.



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[14] Chjuan C.H. and Dhaliwal J.S. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1995 Pan Pacific Conference on Information Systems, on Policy and Strategy in Information Systems: Asia Pacific Perspectives, Singapore, June-July 1995. 

[15] Proceedings of the International Conference for National Information Infrastructure for Social and Economic Development in Asia Global Infrastructure Commission’ s Asia Regional Meeting, Bangkok, November 1995. 

[16] Schaefer, R.J., National Information Infrastructure Policy: A Theoretical and Normative Approach, in Internet Research, 5, 2, 1995, 4-13. 

[17] Tapsott, D., The Digital Economy, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1996. 

Table 1: Data about Pacific Asian Nations*






GDP per

Capita ($)

GDP per

Capita (PPP)


Literacy (%)


Density (%)



The Young Lions




































The Growing Tigers

Hong Kong














South Korea














The Mature Leopards















New Zealand












"HDI" is the Human Development Index, a composite index constructed by the United Nations Development Program to indicate the relative levels of human development in various nations. A score below 50 is considered low human development, 50-80 is medium, and 80-100 is high. 

"GDP" is gross domestic product. 

"PPP" is purchasing power parity, scaled with the USA as one hundred. 

"Telephone Density (%)" is one hundred times the number of telephones per person. 

"Life Expectancy," in years, is averaged for men and women. 

*Taken from Pocket Asia, by John Andrews, The Economist Newspaper, Ltd., London, 1993-1994. 

**The HDI for Taiwan was not available.

Table 2: Participants in the National IT Policies and Strategies (NITPAS) Project



China: Yulin Feng, Institute of Software, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing; Jian Jin, Information Industry Research Department, Ji Nan University, Guang Zhou; Xiang Kui Zhou, Information Industry Research Department, Ji Nan University, Guang Zhou 

Malaysia: Chun Kwong Han, Centre for Research on Information Management and Policy Action, Universiti Pertanian Malaysia, Selangor Darul Ehsan; Sharifah Mastura Syed Mohamed, Computer Science Section, School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, University of Science Malaysia, Penang; Norlia Mustafa, Computer Science Section, School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, University of Science Malaysia, Penang; 

Philippines: Yu Ming Chin, Center for Research and Communication, College of Arts and Sciences, Information Technology Department, Manila; Omar P. Dapul, Manila, Philippines. 

Thailand: Sumeth Vongpanitterd, Thailand Development Research Institute, Bangkok; Pichet Durongkaveroj, Faculty of Science, Ramkhamhaeng University, National Information Technology Secretariat, Bangkok 

Vietnam: Tung Bui, Professor, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, USA, PRIISM Consortium Director

Dieu D. Phan, Professor, Institute of Information Technology, Deputy chairman, National Program on Information, Technology Steering Committee.



Hong Kong: To-Yat Cheung, Cooperative Research Centre for Open Systems Technology (CRCOST), City University of Hong Kong 

Singapore: Foo Hooi Ling, Application and Promotion, National Computer Board; Chan Meng Khoong, Information Technology Institute, National Computer Board 

South Korea: Jong Uk Choi, College of Sciences, Sangmyung Women's University 

Taiwan: Ting-Peng Liang, College of Management, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung



Australia: Rod Badger, Department of Communication and the Arts, Commonwealth Government, Canberra 

Japan: Osamu Hayama, Graduate School of Integrated Science and Art, University of East Asia, Nomura Research Institute, Yokohama; Takeshi Shinohara, Center for Advanced Social Systems Research, Nomura Research Institute, Ltd. 

New Zealand: John Vargo, University of Canterbury, Christchurch.