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Report: Asia-Pacific Factories Lead in Using Digital Technology

Cisco Systems’ Roy noted that small and medium firms “are at varying stages of maturity in terms of digital adoption” and could use collaboration with governments and corporations

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A robot is seen in the automobile production line of the new Honda plant in Prachinburi, Thailand, May 12, 2016. VOA
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She may not be the warmest waitress, but she serves a nice, hot cup of “Joe” at a café on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.

Though this robotic barista is still getting help from her human counterpart, she is a signal that Asia is ahead of the curve in embracing new technologies ahead of the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

A recent report from PwC Global, a professional services firm, studied 1,155 manufacturing businesses based on how much they were embracing and incorporating innovations in technology, from drones to 3-D printing.

Across the board, companies in the Asia-Pacific region scored higher than their counterparts elsewhere in the world.

In Thailand, for instance, manufacturing companies have widely adopted new technologies to transform their operations.

“Many are using robots to assemble products at their factories to rely less on human labor, reduce costs, and boost overall efficiency,” said Vilaiporn Taweelappontong, consulting lead partner at PwC Thailand.

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FILE – An instructor explains the operation of a drone to students at a school run by TT Aviation Technology in Beijing, Oct. 17, 2015. China has quickly emerged as a leading player in the international race for drone manufacturing. VOA

ASEAN catches up

The report graded firms based on questions about the kinds of tools they were introducing into their workplaces. For example, manufacturers were asked if they made use of virtual reality; 44 percent in the Asia Pacific said they did compared with 34 percent in the United States and 19 percent in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

The regional group Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reports that small and medium enterprises are using new technology to catch up to bigger rivals.

“Digitization is enabling SMEs across ASEAN to participate in cross-border trade, allowing them to grow and scale their businesses while reducing costs,” said Bidhan Roy, a general manager at Cisco Systems Pte Ltd.

Benefits of youth

Observers say the Asia-Pacific region benefits from its youth.

The relatively young population means people are amenable to different work environments and business operations, as well as having a keen interest in using new technology.

Another advantage? The region’s economies are also somewhat young, with many just opening up to global trade in the last two decades. In addition its underdeveloped infrastructure has the ability to adapt for future needs, like public transit or drone deliveries.

robots
An iPal couple social robots help teach children at a kindergarten in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China, July 4, 2018. Designed to offer education, care and companionship to children and the elderly, the 3.5-feet tall humanoid robots come in two genders and can tell stories, take photos and deliver educational or promotional content. VOA

“Asian companies have the advantage of setting up robust digital operations from essentially a blank slate in terms of factory automation, workforce, and even organizational IT [information technology] networks as a whole,” the PwC report said.

Baby steps

But more is needed to make these companies successful.

Cisco Systems’ Roy noted that small and medium firms “are at varying stages of maturity in terms of digital adoption” and could use collaboration with governments and corporations.

PwC Thailand’s Vilaiporn agreed on the benefit of collaboration.

Also Read: Apple Confirms It’s Deal With Oprah Winfrey For Digital Entertainment

“Thailand 4.0 will only be successful if both the government and private sectors understand their roles in fostering investment and focusing on research and development, as well as equipping the workforce with necessary skill sets and capabilities,” he said.

The “4.0” refers to the latest industrial revolution, which goes beyond mechanization and automation. It entails business processes becoming more efficient through a comprehensive application of technology, from smart devices to machine learning. (VOA)

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Parts Of Asia-Pacific Region Suffer From Acute Malnutrition And Hunger: UN

The report notes climate-related disasters are rising in the region, having a detrimental impact on agriculture.

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Hunger
A Papuan child suffering from malnutrition lies in a hospital bed for treatment in Agats, the capital of Asmat district in Indonesia's easternmost Papua province. VOA

Four U.N. specialized agencies warn that many parts of Asia and the Pacific suffer from alarmingly high levels of malnutrition and hunger. This is the first time the Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.N. Children’s Fund, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization have issued a joint report, which calls for urgent action to reverse the situation.

The report finds efforts to reduce malnutrition and hunger have come to a virtual standstill in Asia and the Pacific. Unless greater effort is made to tackle this situation, it warns prospects for economic and social development in the region will be at serious risk.

hunger
Malnourished and displaced Somali children sit in a tent in their camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. VOA

As of now, the U.N. agencies say many parts of Asia and the Pacific will not reach the U.N. sustainable goal of ending all forms of malnutrition and achieving zero hunger by 2030.

The United Nations reports 821 million people globally suffer from hunger. World Food Program spokesman Herve Verhoosel said 62 percent of that number, or 509 million people, are in the Asia-Pacific region, with children, in particular, bearing the biggest burden.

Verhoosel said 79 million children, or one in every four under age five, suffer from stunting, and 34 million children are wasting. He says 12 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, which increases their risk of death.

Hunger
Faduma Hussein Yagoub, a polio sufferer, came with her family to Dadaab from Somalia. Her husband and two of her five young children died of hunger on the way. Despite the dangers thousands of refugees every week are making the journey, walking for weeks across the desert and braving attacks by armed robbers and wild animals:

The report notes climate-related disasters are rising in the region, having a detrimental impact on agriculture. Loss of crops, it says, results in more hunger, more loss of nutrition and loss of livelihood.

Also Read: Loss of Teeth In Elder People Linked to Malnutrition

According to the report, climate-related losses in Asia between 2005 and 2015 amounted to a staggering $48 billion. Authors of the report say countries in the region must adapt agriculture so it’s more resilient to extreme climate events, and to mitigate the damage from climate change. (VOA)