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Chasing big ideas in East Asia

By Gary Coleman - September 06, 2013

Recently, I had an amazing opportunity to participate in a World Economic Forum event in an equally amazing locale: Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, where the 22nd World Economic Forum on East Asia was held. Moderating the panel “Chasing the Next Big Idea”—with a range of stakeholders, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair—I witnessed first-hand how bold thinking  can contribute to the future of East Asian countries.

Despite recent headlines touting the slow-down in the region, East Asia’s star continues to be on the rise. Five countries in the East Asia region now fall in the top 20 of the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, with most scoring above average. And according to UN Millennium Development Goals, East Asia—including the Pacific—is on target to lower poverty rates from 50 percent in 1990 to less than 10 percent in 2015.

But there are challenges. Doing business  in many of the region’s countries is just plain hard. Infrastructure is lacking, electricity is spotty, and governance is weak. Though there’s been progress, millions still live in poverty. Clearly the region can benefit from big ideas.

The panelists at the Forum provided just that. From Haider Rashid, ABB’s Regional President for South Asia, we learned how smart cities and intelligent buildings must be the wave of the future as populations continue to shift to urban centers (19:50 in video). From April Rinne, the Chief Strategy Officer for Collaborative Lab, USA, we heard about the sharing economy and rethinking access to unused assets—such as your car or even your power drill—and how this can build communities and jobs (27:00). Heizo Takenaka , Director for the Global Security Research Institute, Keio University, proposed strengthening public-private partnerships as well as promoting a pan-region intellectual exchange (35:11). Hang Do, from iVIVU.com, a  leading online travel site in Vietnam, saw the path to prosperity as equal access to knowledge via mobile devices (16:20). Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC (the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) pointed to the importance of self-governing, high-quality universities in developing the leaders emerging economies need (11:00).

It was Prime Minister Blair, however, that delivered the ultimate idea: get things done (13:00). The most effective idea is an idea that is executed. And with developed countries now bogged down with legacy structures, he pointed to the unprecedented opportunity the emerging economies of East Asia have to use what’s worked—and avoid what hasn’t (40:00). With today’s connected world, harness the energy of the most creative citizens and use their big ideas to move things forward (54:19).

Those ideas can be found almost anywhere—from a panel at the World Economic Forum to a start-up’s mission statement. What do you see as the next big idea? I’d like to know.

Dttl_garycoleman_56x56Gary Coleman is Managing Director, Global Industries, of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. He will be heading the Deloitte delegation to the upcoming Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2013 (Summer Davos) , where he will be moderating the panel “Surviving Value Chain Shocks,” on 12 September. Follow him on Twitter @gcoleman_gary.

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