A roundtable discussion at Emory University’s Goizuita Business School last week revealed the wide gaps separating the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the development of their information technology (IT) sectors.

While Singapore has an annual “Miss Internet” pageant, Vietnam is still introducing telephones in areas of the country, according to participants in the seventh annual U.S. Ambassadors Tour organized by the Washington D.C.-based U.S.-Asean Business Council Inc.

U.S. Ambassadors to Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam and senior commercial officers from Indonesia and the Asian Development Bank were in Atlanta June 14.  During the roundtable, they discussed IT issues with representatives of AT&T, IBM, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Nortel and United Parcel Service (UPS).

The participants underscored projected growth of the market for IT services including development of the Internet and E-commerce, but roadblocks inhibiting their development also drew attention.

They discussed repeatedly the need for a regional approach by ASEAN members, particularly regarding security and encryption standards.

The policies of individual countries such as the Philippines, which has undertaken extensive privatization and liberalization of the sector but has high entry prices, also were discussed.

A study by Forrester Research showing that half of the overseas orders through U.S.-based Web sites are neglected because of difficulties with customs and tariffs and other issues was cited.

For more information about the tour, go to http://www.us-asean.org/tour/Tour.html or call Jackie Darden at (202) 289-1911.  Her E-mail address is jdarden@usean.org