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ASEAN Foundation Unveils Research Findings on Digital Literacy, Spotlighting the Digital Divide Across the Region

Bangkok, March 20, 2023 - The ASEAN Foundation, with support from Google.org, unveiled research findings on digital literacy at the ASEAN Regional Symposium: Unveiling Insights into the Region's Digital Literacy, held on March 20, 2024, in Bangkok. Titled “One Divide or Many Divides? Underprivileged ASEAN Communities’ Meaningful Digital Literacy and Response to Disinformation,” the study delves into the digital engagement of underprivileged ASEAN communities. It examines their knowledge, skills, experiences, and responses to disinformation with the aim of establishing a baseline understanding of digital literacy's role in recognizing and responding to disinformation within these communities.


This research is one of the flagship programs of the ASEAN Digital Literacy Programme (ASEAN DLP), following the successful empowerment of over 190,000 individuals across ASEAN with essential digital literacy skills. The ASEAN DLP includes direct outreach by the ASEAN Youth Advisory Group, which actively mobilizes the campaign through various social media channels, engaging 3,000 people through onsite activities and reaching over 900,000 on social media. It has also launched an e-learning platform addressing misinformation, www.DigitalClassASEAN.org.

“As the latest ASEAN Digital Literacy Programme research concludes, the ASEAN Foundation invites strategic stakeholders to attend and discuss the study reports and findings. This research covered quantitative survey and qualitative data collection from all 10 ASEAN member states. We are presenting it at this symposium so attendees can listen to insights and recommendations from each member country and have in-depth discussions with country researchers. We hope this research will help bridge the digital divide in the ASEAN region and create a more inclusive and safer digital space,” said Dr. Piti Srisangnam, Executive Director of ASEAN Foundation.


According to the report, levels of critical thinking and privacy protection competence vary widely across ASEAN member states. Notably, Thailand exhibits the lowest percentage of individuals with high critical thinking skills, at 25%, contrasting with neighboring Cambodia's impressive 62.2%. The Philippines is behind in privacy protection competence, with only 17.42% of individuals possessing high competence, while Singapore excels with 54.37%.

The report finds that Cambodia faces a significant digital literacy gap, despite its rapid adoption of digital technology. While internet and mobile phone penetration rates are high (67.5% have internet access), only 30% of Cambodians possess basic media and digital literacy skills. Particularly, indigenous peoples face challenges due to limited digital skills and reliable information sources, exacerbating the digital divide. Despite 62.2% of the population demonstrating high critical thinking abilities, education plays a significant role in determining Cambodian individuals' abilities to handle information effectively. These findings underscore the necessity for tailored digital literacy initiatives to address the diverse needs of Cambodian communities, enabling them to fully benefit from the digital economy and counter misinformation effectively.


With the release of these groundbreaking findings, the ASEAN Foundation aims to spark meaningful discussions and foster collaborative efforts among stakeholders to address the multifaceted digital literacy challenges facing the ASEAN region. Its goal is to strengthen community resilience against mis/disinformation through comprehensive digital literacy programs and stakeholder engagement taking into consideration infrastructure disparities, socio-cultural influences, and varying government initiatives across ASEAN.

As Marija Ralic, Lead for Google.org APAC, said, “We are proud to support the ASEAN Foundation in empowering people across the region with crucial media literacy and online safety skills. Google.org's dedication to fostering digital safety aligns perfectly with the ASEAN Foundation's mission to empower ASEAN communities through digital literacy which will contribute to digitally resilient ASEAN.” Previously, Google.org supported the ASEAN Foundation with a $1.5 million grant to aid the implementation of ASEAN DLP from 2022 to 2024.”

The ASEAN Regional Symposium was also attended by the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the ASEAN Foundation, representatives from Google.org, representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat, local implementing partners of ASEAN DLP, ASEAN entities, think tanks and digital literacy experts in the region. The symposium concluded with a panel discussion on “From Divide to Empowerment: Strategies for Inclusive Digital Literacy in ASEAN.” that discussed empowerment strategies towards inclusive digital literacy, especially among the underprivileged communities in ASEAN.



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