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Laos, on an Upward Digital Trajectory

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With the digitalization and enhancement of its business registration services, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic aims to improve its attractiveness to foreign investors

Lao People’s Democratic Republic, a land-locked country in South-East Asia, is nestled amongst some of the region’s fast growing economies including Thailand, and Vietnam. The 2019 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index [which is now being replaced by a new corporate flagship, Business Ready (B-READY)] ranked Laos 154 out of 190 countries indicating that business incorporation and other procedures were slow and of limited reach, thus hindering global competitiveness, foreign investment, and access to local businesses. In addition, in 2020, The Global Competitiveness Report which assesses the ability of countries to provide high levels of prosperity to their citizens, ranked Laos 113 out of 141 countries.

That said, Laos is not sitting idly. In line with implementing the National Digital Economic Development Vision for 2021-2040, the National Digital Economic Development Strategy for 2021-2030, and the National Digital Economic Development Plan for 2021-2025, the government held the first meeting of the National Committee on Digital Transformation of Laos on August 3, 2023, under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone, who chairs the national committee.

At the meeting, Minister of Technology and Communications, Dr. Boviengkham Vongdara, indicated that digitization in Laos constitutes an important revolutionary mission to industrialize and modernize the country according to the guidance of the Party and to advance the socio-economic development for the long term, which has to be carried out to satisfy three aspects that are related to each other including: building a digital economy, a digital society, and a digital government.

NRD Companies team during their time in Laos, October, 2023.

“Currently, Laos is embarking on the critical journey of digitalization, and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce is committed to modernizing and enhancing our Business Registration Services. The implementation of the Electronic Business Registration System (eBRS) marks a significant milestone in our efforts to improve the ease of doing business and foster transparency in our country. We are pleased to partner with NRD Companies, a seasoned expert in this field, whose experience will be invaluable in achieving our goals to revolutionize the business registration system. This initiative will not only help streamline business registration processes but also make it easier to amend enterprise data, refine dissolution procedures, and improve information services. Additionally, it will enhance data accessibility in a more transparent and accurate manner. Most importantly, we hope that the new system will create an even more favorable environment for both local and international businesses to thrive, thereby making a positive impact on the Lao economy.” – Mr. Vanmixay Duangpachanh, Deputy Director-General of the Enterprise Registration and Management Department, Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

As part of the digitalization agenda, which looks to eliminate conditions such as the current paper-based business registration process, The Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MoIC) embarked on a mission to implement an Electronic Business Registration System (eBRS) to modernize and enhance Business Registration Services. The objective of the project is to develop an online, end-to-end Integrated Electronic Business Registration System that offers fast, efficient, and convenient business registration processes while providing comprehensive information about registration procedures. The system aims to support local as well as international businesses related services and improve the country’s ease of doing business environment.

NRD Companies team during their time in Laos, October, 2023.

“To accomplish digitalization goals, NRD Companies was awarded the contract for the design, supply and installation in Laos of the Electronic Business Registration System (eBRS) in support of the reforms in the business registration field. The successful completion of this project will streamline business registration processes, improve data accessibility, and enhance overall service quality for both MoIC customers and staff. NRD Companies has completed over 150 registry related projects around the globe and has a wealth of experience working in developing countries. Therefore, we are extremely pleased that with the support, involvement and dedication of the government, Laos has joined the digitalization cause.”– says Mindaugas Glodas, CEO of NRD Companies.

It should be noted that the project is not without its challenges. The size of the country’s “informal economy”, one that is neither taxed nor monitored by the government, is estimated at 27%; Internet penetration stands at only around 50%; and over 60% of the country’s population live in isolated rural areas. Despite these challenges, the country could expect several improvements as a result of the project implementation including an efficient and streamlined business registration process, enhanced ease of doing business, promotion of transparency and accountability, and enhanced interoperability which will allow seamless integration with other automated systems, including other governmental authorities operating within the jurisdiction and online or mobile payment portals.

Mr. Glodas concludes that “it is evident that this business registration reform in Laos will serve as an opening scene in the digitalization reform in the country. By streamlining business registration processes, reducing administrative burdens, and improving the overall ease of doing business, Laos is positioning itself as a favorable destination for foreign investment.”

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