China will set up a special fund for Internet and telecommunications infrastructure to link China and ASEAN members, said Lu Wei, minister of the State Council's Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).
Lu made the remarks on Sunday at the China-ASEAN Information Harbor Forum in Nanning, capital city of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, to discuss building IT infrastructure and boosting e-commerce to connect China and Southeast Asia.
China first proposed the Information Harbor initiative in September 2014. The initiative will include five cooperative platforms to benefit China and ASEAN members, covering infrastructure, information sharing, technological innovation, trade service and cultural exchange.
The initiative, aimed to establish an information hub for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a planned network of trade infrastructure mirroring the ancient Silk Road, has been supported and welcomed by ASEAN members, Lu Wei said.
According to China's plan, a base for the China-ASEAN Information Harbor will be established in Nanning City and consist of 34 projects worth 20.9 billion yuan (3.3 billion U.S. dollars).
Guangxi lies in a key area along the Belt and Road route, serving as a gateway for cooperation with Southeast Asia, said Peng Qinghua, Communist Party chief of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Guangxi reported 210 billion yuan (33 billion U.S. dollars) in e-commerce trade volume last year, up 65.9 percent from 2013. The volume reached 193.9 billion yuan during the first half of 2015, up 84.7 percent from the same period last year, thanks to ever-deepening cooperation with ASEAN members, Peng said.
Peng said the Guangxi government will spare no efforts to push forward implementation of the initiative and create a mutually beneficial situation with ASEAN members to benefit a broad range of enterprises and people.
There is still a huge digital gap between developing Asia and the Western world. A total of 700 million Chinese and 400 million people in Southeast Asia today have no access to the Internet, Lu Wei said.
Accelerated infrastructure construction will bring about closer and more efficient cooperation for sharing information on finance, education, scientific research, health care and disaster prevention and relief, he said.
Cooperation cannot exist without sharing information, Lu said. The fund will play a vital role in breaking information barriers and closing the knowledge gap.
The two-day forum seeks to strengthen cooperation between governments, companies, and scholars in the fields of e-commerce, Internet security and cultural industries.
The Chinese central government values the industrial integration and common prosperity of China and ASEAN members, and the government is making a long-term plan to implement the Information Harbor initiative, said Lin Nianxiu, vice director with the National Development and Reform Commission of China.
During the Sunday meeting, the CAC also signed a memorandum of understanding on cyberspace cooperation and development with the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications of Laos.
The event is jointly hosted by the CAC, the NDRC and the government of Guangxi as part of the annual China-ASEAN Expo.