The View From Asia

The ups and downs of tech in 2021

Asia News Network writers bring you the upcoming trends and challenges for technology in the new year.

Super-apps, such as e-commerce apps, have the potential to solve increasingly segmented jobs and unattainable online activities in the future.
Super-apps, such as e-commerce apps, have the potential to solve increasingly segmented jobs and unattainable online activities in the future. PHOTO: AFP

New payment trends this year

Soumya Basu

The Daily Star, Bangladesh

Last year was like no other for digital payments. As economies came to a standstill, consumers pivoted to online shopping and businesses turned to remote delivery and digital acceptance.

In early 2020, digital took centre stage as many offline and neighbourhood stores closed and some switched to remote delivery.

A cohort of first-time e-commerce shoppers emerged as consumers started patronising stores with an online presence.

This year will see further evolution in this behaviour. Integrated commerce will become commonplace with new-age distribution channels and market aggregators inserting themselves into the value chain.

With personal and discretionary expenditures plummeting, affordability has become a central theme, leading to businesses and consumers welcoming Buy Now, Pay Later options, injecting speed, flexibility and convenience in paying.

This year will witness an explosion of mass affordability solutions offered by merchants, manufacturers, marketplaces and, of course, banks and fintechs.

Last year, in more ways than one, was about going "contactless".

As people get familiar with scanning QR codes, consumers will pay in multiple ways without making contact at merchant locations.

In 2021, small business owners will continue to look for ways to stay connected with consumers and leverage digital marketplaces. This will help them gain exposure to new segments, secure new leads, provide 24/7 access to products and create experiences for digital-first customers.

The increased digital micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) footprint will open the gates to MSME credit going mainstream this year.

Given the shift to online-first offerings, investments in cyber security and authentication will take precedence, especially for small businesses that are not as equipped to handle fraud as big firms are. Redoubling business commitment to security will catalyse innovation in payment security.

Investigating fintech firms


China Daily, China

With advanced technology, big data and abundant capital, Internet finance has developed at a tremendous speed in China, posing huge challenges to financial supervision.

It is no surprise that - with the authorities acting to better regulate the development of the industry so as to give full play to its good points and avoid its shortcomings - industry leader Ant Group should be the first to come under scrutiny.

But the ongoing probe has provided sufficient signs that what the administrative departments are trying to do is not just to regulate one company but, rather, the entire Internet financial sector, as China's central bank vice-president Pan Gongsheng recently told the media.

There is no doubt that China needs a booming Internet financial industry. But the magnitude of the antitrust investigation signals that the State is intent on strengthening its supervision of the industry to prevent illegal financial activities, curb unfair competition and nip risks in the bud.

Given their deep penetration into the national economy and society, Internet financial firms must become more aware of their responsibilities. They are obliged to behave themselves, bearing the interests of the country and people in mind.

The probes are not a means to settle accounts but, rather, a means to help the enterprises as well as the whole industry to outline a road map into the future.

The case for super-apps

Devie Rahmawati

The Jakarta Post, Indonesia

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for technology has become even more critical. From devices to Internet access to productivity - these can no longer be excluded from our daily lives.

The total number of Internet users now exceeds 4.39 billion people globally, and from year to year, there has been an approximate 10 per cent increase in global Internet users.

People in Indonesia don't want to miss out on the trends in digital technology. Since 2019, around 355 million digital devices have been owned by 268 million Indonesians.

The pandemic has increased the complexity and productivity of a job. Routines have become duller with a lot of tasks, goals and endless demands for productivity.

Even though working from home can be considered relaxing, the reality comes across differently. The lines have been blurred and the home is no longer a sacred space where work is off-limits.

As work becomes more complex, more obstacles have also come to the fore.

Technical barriers such as access have cropped up with more people using digital devices, especially for those who live in far-flung areas with low network connectivity and incompatible devices. Another obstacle in achieving productivity is the navigation and operation of an application or the Web.

Despite digital technology helping work and human activities in general, in practice this has also resulted in greater complexity and higher productivity demands.

Increasingly segmented jobs and unattainable online activities call out for innovation. Technology developers have been looking for solutions.

Creating a super-app is one such potential solution to the problem. For example, an e-commerce app is a common super-app.

In e-commerce apps, we find merchants, e-wallets, chats, blog reviews, delivery services and even games. Users do not need to use separate applications for each feature.

Unfortunately, a super-app to support productivity is still rare and users still use separate apps to support hyper-productivity, which can be tremendously time-consuming and even counter-productive.

Therefore, a digital collaboration super-app like Lark is needed.

By using a digital collaboration super-app, we can expect to reduce technical barriers and constraints often encountered by other productivity apps; a hyper-productivity medium for work and study during or after the Covid-19 pandemic; and a benchmark for other super-apps within the productivity landscape for future innovations.

• The View From Asia is a compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 23 news media titles.