Asia shares lessons on digitalization, anti-disinformation, women empowerment


“Asia is going through a fast process of transformation, and this is where Germany can learn. Digitalization is happening much more swiftly here; the region has extensive experience in dealing with disinformation; and there are strong women in Asia whom we can look up to,” said German Member of Parliament Bettina Stark-Watzinger, who is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF).

Stark-Watzinger is concerned about the downturn in business climate in Germany. She pointed out that climate change, migration, health and old-age provision have become the prevailing political topics in the country, and that the economy has taken a back seat. “We should cater to the future, and this is why we need to put more emphasis on innovation,” she stated.

Stark-Watzinger is a member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). She was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 19-21 for FNF´s Pan-Asia Regional Meeting.

Balancing digital rights and opportunities

“In Germany, we worry. Asians see chances,” said Stark-Watzinger when asked about how digital transformation is regarded in Europe compared to Asia. “Asia embraces the potential of new technologies to create jobs and business opportunities, while we in Europe are more concerned about data protection and privacy,” she continued.

The European Union (EU)’s landmark General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that was adopted in May 2018, is providing global standard on how data is handled. “Europe and Asia can exchange ideas to find a balance between data protection and innovation,” remarked Stark-Watzinger.


Future-oriented, liberal solutions

Stark-Watzinger also talked about the continuing polarization in German society. Some rural areas turn into battlegrounds where populism gains support. While FDP has a stable base, it should attract more voters and claim its role as the third voice in Germany´s public debate.

“As in politics, FNF has to reach out to more people if we want our work to have greater impact. We have to engage the masses, or we won’t be able to shape the political discourse,” said Dr. Rene Klaff, FNF Head of International Department.

The Foundation underwent structural changes and is implementing new objectives. FNF is aiming to positions itself as a creative innovation platform for the promotion of freedom. “We recognize the challenges of the times, and offer future-oriented, liberal solutions,” concluded Klaff.

In 2020, FNF will highlight the issue of disinformation and women empowerment under the campaign #FemaleForward.

The activity in Kuala Lumpur was the third Pan-Asia Regional Meeting attended by representatives from FNF Southeast & East Asia and FNF South Asia.