The rapid development known by new technologies over the last few years has paved the way for a new revolution in the process of economic and industrial development. The affirmation of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data, latest generation information and communication technologies, in fact, triggered a change in the behavior of societies and individuals and expanded exponentially the horizon of what is now “possible” and “reachable.”
The change in the world around us, in the way of experiencing it and living within it, generates a change in individual as well as collective needs and put public authorities, local communities, and business operators in front of the need to give answers to new questions coming from people and markets.
The application of new technologies to most sectors of the current economy, in fact, can be considered the starting point of a new industrial revolution, in which digitalization, networks, and AI systems are the game changer factor of the production system.
Thus, the accomplishment of this transformation becomes the distinction not only for the competitiveness of states on the international scene but also for the quality and sustainability of the entire country system's growth process. Talking about the digital economy means creating new business and new job opportunities, expanding the markets, bringing producers and consumers closer together, supporting the transformation of products into services, and providing more efficient services. At the same time, it also increases opportunities for developing circular economic systems, thus contributing to greater environmental sustainability.
The strategic value of digital economy has been revealed in all its scope following the outbreak of the pandemic from COVID-19, which paralyzed states on five continents and imposed a change in the delivery of services and consumer habits within societies. The implementation of the digital revolution would not only offer the tools to drive the economy out of the crisis but also would give shape to an innovative rethinking of all the sectors that make up the wider "ecosystem" country.
Tried by the pandemic's side effects, Italy discovered a possible driver toward the recovery in the digitalization. The lockdown and the social distancing urged business operators to reinvent themselves to make their process and model more efficient and meet the consumers' new habits.
For example, in 2020, e-commerce in Italy should increase from 35 percent to 40 percent compared to the previous year. This is a huge possibility for a country where the business environment is formed by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
In this regard, the potential of digitalization started to bear its first fruits already last year, when the SMEs which have grown the most were those who had invested in innovation, thus succeeding in getting rid of the general stagnation of the national economy and in becoming successful, positive examples of business development Europe wide.
Digitalization is valuing and enhancing Italian expertise and skills in traditional sectors, like food industry or design, thanks to the integration of new technologies in the tradition, thus bringing the made in Italy into the future. The innovation in the tradition is just one aspect of how the digital revolution impacts the Italian economy.
Indeed, Italy is a world leader in innovative and technological manufacturing, and it can benefit from putting its know-how into the service of smoothing the transformation toward digitalization. Even if Italy itself is still elaborating a comprehensive strategy toward digitalization, public authorities and the business community are now working together in synergy for embracing the 4.0 industrial revolution crossing different levels of society.
It has been possible thanks to the Italian innovative ecosystem, which is formed by SMEs, companies, university and research and develiopment (R&D) centers as well as public and financial actors, thus creating integrated networking for the innovation and the technological transfer, where education, technical training, financial support are all pieces of the same puzzle.
As it is becoming a new key to the interpretation of the reality around us, digitalization is also opening up new spaces for cooperation among countries. In this regard, sustaining the digital economy can indeed become part of the cooperation between Italy and ASEAN, especially now that the two areas are on the pathway for relaunching the synergies.
Since Italy’s nomination as the partner of development was approved by ASEAN in September 2020, the pathway toward more structured and wider cooperation between the two regions can be inaugurated in the name of sharing knowledge and deepening the reciprocal understanding.
In the field of digitalization and digital economy, Italy can be not only a point of reference for the markets and the internal demands of consumers in ASEAN, but it can especially be a partner in supporting the development and the competitiveness for those economies among ASEAN which want and which are ready to implement local value chain based on R&D, innovative know-how and intellectual capital. Indonesia is indeed at the forefront of this process.
When the Indonesian government promotes the development of digital infrastructure, to face the new digital habits of the population and catch the digital economy's opportunities, Italy can step in and become a partner in it. Italian experience in matching SMEs' economic fabric with the potential of innovative technology can be crucial. At the same time, Italy could benefit from entering into contact and sharing the lesson learned from Indonesia in return.
The synergies could also take place on education and digital literacy to provide both Italian and Indonesian people the tools for governing the ongoing digital transformation to prevent any possible risks while making it a real occasion for growth.
The writer is director of the Centre for International Studies (Ce.S.I) Italy.