November 2020

Updates:
Bangladeshi teen wins global peace prize for fight to protect children online

A 17 year Bangladeshi teenager named Sadat Rahman has won the 2020 KidsRights International Children’s Peace Prize for developing a mobile app ‘Cyber Teens’ to help  teenagers report cyber-bullying and online crime in the western district of Narail in Bangladesh. The app also provides information on online safety and how to avoid sexual predators.

The previous winners of the prize include Nobel laureate and Pakistani education campaigner Malala Yousafzai and environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

15 Asia-Pacific countries sign free trade deal

After 8 years of negotiations, 15 Asia-Pacific countries including China, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Malaysia, have signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The signatory countries represent about 30% of the world’s population, 30% of the global GDP, and nearly 28% of global trade, making the RCEP the largest trade agreement in the world.

Expected to shape global economics and politics, the RCEP is intended to facilitate international trade by reducing tariffs and administrative requirements among member states. The RCEP regulates, among others:

  • Telecommunication services, including ICTs, regulatory oversight and licensing, as well as allocation of spectrums;
  • Establishment of a list of international treaties the RCEP member states shall ratify or accede to, as well as regulations on intellectual property (IP), trademark, geographical indications, and patents;
  • Setting up dispute settlement mechanisms related to IP, stating that the member states shall, in connection with their system of management of the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) names, making available an appropriate procedure for dispute settlements, based on, or modelled along the same lines as, the principles established in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP);
  • E-commerce, including electronic authentications and signatures, online consumer protection and personal data protection, to ease cross-border e-commerce, as well as cybersecurity.

Notably missing from the RCEP is India, which withdrew from negotiations last year due to concerns over its domestic industry and the potential of widening trade deficits with member countries, especially China. According to AXIOS, this is the first time when the USA is not in the centre of a major global free trade agreement.

Australian police arrest 14 people for online child abuse

The Australian Federal Police (AFP; have arrested 14 men in New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia for creating and distributing child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online. They were booked under 828 charges. So far, the AFP have identified 46 Australian sexual abuse victims aged between 16 months to 15 years.

The investigations which began in February after the AFP’s Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCE) was tipped by its US counterpart, unravelling links to offenders across the globe: Europe, Asia, USA, Canada, and New Zealand.

Fact-checking platform created to address misinformation in South Korea

Journalists and professionals from different areas have jointly created a fact-checking platform to systematically address misinformation in South Korea. The platform called ‘Fact-Check Net’ consists of 11 professionals and 33 civic checkers. The professional fact-checking group includes individuals from South Korea’s key news agencies, newspapers, and legal organisations. The civic fact-checkers are going to be specifically trained for the mission.

India to regulate social media, online news, and video streaming platforms

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in India will now oversee content on online news, social media, and over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms such as Netflix, it was stated in an order issued on 9 November 2020. However, it is still unclear whether this will include news portals from other countries. The order has sparked concerns over censorship of online media.

Singapore launches consultation for remote identity verification

The Monetary Authority of Singapore has launched a consultation on a proposed notice on remote identity verification of individuals. The consultation came due to the rise in cases related to impersonation scams and seeks to address the risks arising from theft and misuse of an individual’s personal details. The consultation is open for comments till 9 December.

 

China proposes antitrust regulation for tech giants

China’s public antitrust authorities have released a 22 page document that defines antitrust behaviour within the Chinese tech sector. The document has provisions that would prevent online companies from sharing consumer data and participating in a joint effort to remove smaller competitors. In case the document becomes law, online companies will no longer be able to force third parties into exclusive arrangements or treat customers differently based on their data and spending habits. Online companies such as Alibaba and JD.com would suffer the most with such measures. Currently, they account for 75% of the Chinese online retail market.

Competition Commission of India investigates Google’s market dominance

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has initiated an investigation over Google’s abuse of its dominant position in its app store to promote its payments service Google Pay. The CCI is reviewing the allegations of Google promoting Google Pay through Android smartphones and whether sellers have a choice to prevent users from having access to it by design. The allegations against Google were filed in February and claim that Google is violating the Competition Act of 2002, which prohibits the abuse of dominant market position.

WhatsApp allowed to roll out payment services in India

Facebook owned WhatsApp announced the launch of money transfer operations in India after the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) approved WhatsApp to offer payments services via the unified payments interface (UPI). The service would be available in 10 Indian languages. The NPCI has allowed WhatsApp to expand its operation gradually; the company is allowed to expand its payment services to only 20 million users in the first phase.

India and UK signs ICT MoU

India and the UK have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on ICT co-operation. The two countries will collaborate in developing 5G, Internet of things (IoT), machine to machine, cloud computing, big data etc. technologies.

 

GSMA concludes digital development agreements with Malaysia, Pakistan, and Pacific Islands

In order to advance digital development in the Asia-Pacific, the GSMA has concluded agreements with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT), and the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association (PITA). The purpose of the agreement with Malaysia is to help grow Malaysia’s digital economy through building digital skills and strengthening the digital sector through better investment and innovation. With regard to Pakistan, the agreement aims to improve broadband access as part of the ‘Digital Pakistan’ initiative. Lastly, the partnership with the Pacific Islands strives to encourage the establishment of a digital society.

ACOLA publishes report highlighting Australia’s IoT potential

The Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) and the Australian Research Council (ARC) released a report highlighting the advantages of the Internet of things (IoT) for Australia. The report emphasises the benefits of IoT, such as improving the sustainability of cities, strengthening healthcare systems, and helping the manufacturing sector grow. The report also details challenges associated with IoT use: security and privacy vulnerabilities, establishing international standards, interoperability limitations, and the need to adapt the Australian job market to the IoT era. The study recommends a collaborative approach to: (a) create a IoT research and development community, (b) protect citizen rights, (c) encourage trust and acceptance of IoTs, (d) get citizens and consumers involved in designing and developing of IoTs, (e) develop an IoT workforce, (f) create a flexible and sufficient regulatory environment.

Singapore Parliament adopts personal data protection act amendments

The Parliament of Singapore has adopted proposed amendments to the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) to strengthen consumer trust through organisational accountability; enhance effectiveness of enforcement; enhance consumer autonomy; and enhance data use for innovation. This is the first comprehensive review of the PDPA since its enactment in 2012. The PDPA has been updated to be aligned with international best practices from other leading jurisdictions and global frameworks. According to ZDNet, the amendments will allow local businesses to use consumer data without prior consent for some purposes, such as business improvement and research.

October 2020

Updates:
Indian drug maker Dr Reddy hit by cyber-attack

Indian drug maker Dr Reddy Laboratories Ltd was hit by a cyber-attack. While the exact nature of the attack is yet to be made public, it is reported that this data breach forced the firm to temporarily shut down operations of all its major manufacturing facilities across the world. The company has shared that they have ’isolated’ its data centre services after a cyber-attack. The data breach occurred days after the company received regulatory approvals to conduct human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by a Russian research institute.

Pakistan revokes ban on TikTok

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has overturned the ban on TikTok for allowing ‘indecent and ‘immoral’ content after TikTok’s management assured the PTA  that they will block all accounts which are repeatedly involved in spreading obscenity and immorality.


The PTA had banned TikTok for failing to filter out ‘immoral and indecent’ content, after it issued a final warning in July 2020. Pakistan has media regulations adhering to conservative social customs which do not allow for dissemination of content considered ‘vulgar’.

China makes amendments in laws to protect minors online

The Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress delegates passed an amendment to China’s Law on the Protection of Minors by adding 60 new articles and updating some of the previous articles. The amended law will now include a new chapter dealing with online child protection and the rights of children online and is slated to come into effect on 1 June 2021.

The new amendment takes a closer scrutiny of people working with children and setting accountability of schools and business in protecting children, making sex education mandatory, put women in charge of sensitive cases where girls are involved, hold schools, businesses, and online service providers responsible when young people are harmed under their watch. This includes establishing a unified electronic identity authentication system for online gaming, for restricting the hours of gaming access of minors and restricts live streaming platforms from registering anyone under 16 years old.

New Zealand launches new tool for reporting privacy breaches

The New Zealand's Office of the Privacy Commissioner has announced the launch of a new tool for organisations to report privacy breaches. The online tool NotifyUs provides guidance for organisations in complying to the new Privacy Act 2020 which will come into effect on 1 December 2020.  Under the new act, if an organisation has a privacy breach that is likely to cause anyone serious harm, it is legally required to notify the government and any affected persons as soon as practicable.

China introduces draft data protection legislation

According to Global Times, a draft legislation on data protection has reached the first review stage in Chinese legislature. The draft text includes fines of up to 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million), or 5% of the previous year’s turnover, in case of violations. It defines sensitive private data as race, ethnicity, religion, biometric data, medical and financial data, and personal trajectory. Large data infrastructure operators and entities channeling personal information outside China will need to undergo compulsory security assessment by the Chinese authorities.

 

New report on online child safety in the Pacific Islands

Plan International Australia in partnership with ChildFund Australia and the Young and Resilient Research Centre at the Western Sydney University have released the Online Safety in the Pacific report that is based on research conducted in Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands to understand the challenges and opportunities digital technologies present to children.

Though access remains a challenge for children, the report observes that this limited access to technology has impeded children from developing the skills to protect themselves online and neither are their parents or caregivers equipped to support the children.

To address the issue of protecting children online and ensuring they benefit from the use of technologies, the report suggests recommendations under three pillars;  protection, provision, and participation. These include suggestions:strengthening existing policies related to protecting children online; developing classification of age appropriate content online; allocating a budget to build capacity among teachers; encouraging the industry to adopt a safety by design approach; ensuring quality programmes and services by adhering to the principles of the Convention on the rights of the child;  and implement a community approach to protect children online.

India and Japan join UK against encrypted social media messages Encryption, Child Rights, Child Safety online

India and Japan have joined the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ group of nations (the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) in a campaign against encrypted platforms such as Facebook and its Whatsapp messaging service. In a joint international statement addressed to tech companies they have urged them to not overlook illegal activities including sharing of child abuse content on their platforms. 

Priti Patel, Home Secretary, UK mentioned ‘We owe it to all of our citizens, especially our children, to ensure their safety by continuing to unmask sexual predators and terrorists operating online’.

 

Philippines begins national ID registrations

The Philippine statistics agency has begun registering millions of citizens to the national identification system. The new system issues a unique personal identifier to each person once they have registered with their personal details including: name, sex, birth date and place, blood type, address, nationality as well as biometrics such as fingerprints, facial photos, and iris scans. It will also be used across government agencies and in access to private services. Officials expect the ID system to accelerate growth of the digital economy and support digital payments.

Call for ensuring equal digital citizenship and online safety for girls in Asia

On the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child, six international organisations focused on children. World Vision International, ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages International, and Terre des Hommes International Federation have formed the ‘Joining Forces Alliance’. The alliance has launched an urgent call for action to governments, regional intergovernmental organisations, and social media companies  to provide girls in Asia with equal access to the Internet, better protection online, including better mechanisms to report abuse, and support to protect their interests.

Singapore announces IoT cybersecurity labeling scheme

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore announced the official launch of the Cybersecurity Labeling Scheme (CLS). The scheme, which takes reference from ETSI 303 645 will provide cybersecurity rating levels for registered Internet of things (IoT) devices so that consumers will be able to choose products based on their security ratings. The label will be valid for the length of time for which the device will receive security updates, up to three years. For now, the CLS is a voluntary scheme, and it includes four rating levels. (a) Level 1: Product meets basic security requirements such as ensuring unique default passwords and providing software updates. (b) Level 2: Product has been developed based on the principles of security by design and fulfilled level 1 requirements. (c) Level 3: Product has gone through an assessment of software binaries by approved third party test labs and fulfilled level 2 requirements. (d) Level 4: Product has undergone structured penetration tests by approved third party test labs and fulfilled level 3 requirements. According to the scheme, manufacturers applying for the first two levels will need to submit a declaration of compliance with supporting evidence. Those applying for levels 3 and 4 will also be asked to submit the assessment report by an approved lab. To encourage manufacturers to apply for receiving the label, the agency will waive the application fees for the CLS for a year. The CLS initiative is part of the Singapore Safer Cyberspace Masterplan 2020.

China accuses USA of breaking WTO rules with WeChat and TikTok ban

At the latest World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting, Chinese officials have said that the ban imposed by the USA on Chinese mobile applications TikTok and WeChat are in violation of the WTO rules.

Reuters reports that at a closed door meeting a representative for China said that the measures ‘are clearly inconsistent with WTO rules, restrict cross-border trading services and violate the basic principles and objectives of the multilateral trading system’.

 

China accuses India of discriminatory and restrictive trade measures

China has accused India of adopting discriminatory and restrictive trade measures by banning 234 Chinese apps and curbs on foreign direct investment at the latest World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting. China alleges that such measures undermine the transparency, stability, and predictability of the Indian market.

India, has retaliated stating that China has one of the most restrictive digital economy frameworks in the world and therefore should reflect on its reluctance to open up to foreign trading services and have a better transparency record.

Thailand to regulate online food delivery services

Aimed at regulating online food delivery apps by the end of 2020, the trade Commission of Thailand (TCC) released the new draft guidelines on unfair trade practices between online food delivery service providers and the restaurant business operators. The new rules include the commission fee, advertisement fee, delayed credit terms, unreasonable delisting among others. Most food delivery companies are foreign unicorn start-ups. The call for regulating the sector came during the COVID-19 pandemic when food online service providers became dominant and claimed that their trade conditions were unfair against restaurants. Services and advertising fees have been disproportionately rated over 35% since the beginning of the pandemic. The guidelines require food apps to treat restaurants on a balanced basis. 

September 2020

Updates:
Vodafone wins against India’s tax department in US$2 billion tax dispute case


The Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague has ruled in favour of the Vodafone Group against the income tax department of India in a long pending arbitration case of US$2 billion tax dispute on a retrospective basis. In the ruling, the international court mentioned that the imposition of a tax liability along with interest and penalties by the Indian tax department was in breach of ‘guarantee of fair and equitable treatment’ of the terms laid out in the bilateral investment treaty (BIT) agreement between the Netherlands and India.

TikTok appoints Safety Advisory Council for Asia Pacific

TikTok has appointed a seven member 'Safety Advisory Council' in the Asia-Pacific that comprises academics, advocates, and activists who will advise the platform on issues related to online safety, child safety, digital literacy, mental health, and human rights. The advisory council is expected to convene quarterly to discuss issues and submit formal recommendations to TikTok.

Indian Telecom Regulator releases recommendations on traffic management practices and creation of net neutrality multistakeholder body

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released recommendations on traffic management practices (TMPs) and a creation of a multistakeholder body for net neutrality. Some of the recommendations include: the creation of a repository of TMPs that Internet service providers (ISPs) may adopt; creation of a policy for ISPs to inform affected users on the impact of applied TMPs; establish a multistakeholder body that would advise and support the Department of Telecom (DOT) in monitoring and enforcement of net neutrality principles, including creating a repository of TMPs and investigate complaints related to the violations of net neutrality.

 

India’s regulatory authority releases recommendation on OTT framework

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released recommendations for a regulatory framework for  over-the-top (OTT) communications services in India. TRAI has recommended that the market forces should be allowed to respond to user demands without any regulatory intervention from the state. However, developments might be monitored and intervention shall occur as necessary in an appropriate time. Furthermore, no regulatory interventions are currently necessary in respect of the privacy and security issues of OTT services. Finally, TRAI has advised that it is not an opportune moment to implement a comprehensive regulatory framework for OTT services.

 

Australian Information Commissioner rejects Facebook’s appeal to ruling in Cambridge Analytica case

The Australian Federal Court has rejected Facebook Inc.’s application to set aside the court’s earlier ruling granting the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) leave to serve legal documents to the US based social media giant in a Cambridge Analytica investigation. In the ruling, Justice Thawley was satisfied that the OAIC had established a prima facie case that Facebook was conducting business, and collecting and holding personal information in Australia at the relevant time. According to the Guardian, the OAIC stated that 311 127 Australian citizens’ data was exposed by Cambridge Analytica.

 

A4AI and UNESCAP partner to advance affordable Internet access in Asia and the Pacific

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) announced a new partnership to promote affordable Internet access and meaningful connectivity in the Asia and Pacific region through policy and regulatory reform. The partnership will work mainly towards developing training curriculums, delivering capacity building, and sharing workshops for policymakers from the region, as well as conducting a joint study on assessing effective policy options for meaningful broadband connectivity in Asia and the Pacific. Through this collaboration, the two entities will further support the harmonisation of the regional policy processes to ensure that both parties are working together to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

 

New Zealand Stock Exchange hit by DDoS attack

New Zealand’s Stock Exchange Market (NZX) faced a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack for four days, forcing the government to activate the country’s National Security System. The cyber-attacks disrupted cash and debt markets and the Fonterra shareholders market, including its derivatives. The Fonterra Co-operative Group is the world’s largest milk exporter.

Though the New Zealand government has not been able to pinpoint the source of the attack, government agencies have stated that the cyber-attack originated from ‘offshore sources’.

 

Australian Cyber Security Centre publishes manufacturer IoT guide

The Australian Cyber Security Centre issued an Internet of things (IoT) guide for manufacturers titled Code of Practice: Securing the Internet of Things for Consumers. The guide aims to help manufacturers offer secure IoT devices for consumers. It includes 13 principles and provides examples of how to implement them. The principles address: creating strong passwords; vulnerability disclosure policies; software security updates; storing credentials; protecting personal data; minimising exposed attack surfaces; ensuring communication security and software integrity; making systems resilient to outages; monitoring system telemetry data; enabling consumers to delete personal data; installing and maintaining devices; and validating input data. 

China launches new app to combat online misinformation

The Cyberspace Administration of China and state news agency Xinhua has launched a new app to combat online misinformation. Called the United Rumour Debunking Platform, the platform is a part of a broader campaign to address the online misinformation in China. This app and other programmes that will run within some major Chinese apps like WeChat and Baidu, will enable users to quickly fact-check online rumours. It will also allow the users to report online misinformation.

 

New Chinese export rules complicate TikTok sale

China has updated its export control regulations to include several sensitive technologies. One of the technologies added which needs an export control license sounded like TikTok’s personalised recommendation engine, the New York Times reported. The new regulation will mean that Chinese ByteDance would need a license to sell its TikTok technology to a US company.

 

August 2020

Updates:
TRAI issues consultation paper on the Roadmap to Promote Broadband Connectivity and Enhanced Broadband Speed

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a consultation paper on the Roadmap to Promote Broadband Connectivity and Enhanced Broadband Speed. TRAI is seeking inputs from stakeholders on: defining fixed and mobile broadband; innovative approaches for infrastructure creation; promoting broadband connectivity; and the measures to be taken for enhancing broadband speed. The deadline for submitting written comments on the paper is 21 September, and 5 October 2020 for counter-comments.

Taiwan alleges Chinese are behind cyber-attacks on government agencies

Taiwan has alleged that since 2018, hacking groups linked to the Chinese government have attacked at least 10 government agencies and some 6000 e-mail accounts of government officials to steal important data. Officials report that at least four Taiwanese tech companies providing information services to the government were attacked by the hacking groups. The people of Taiwan have been warned to be on alert for such cyber-attacks and ‘omnipresent infiltration’ from China.

Liu Chia-zung, deputy director of the Taiwan Investigation Bureau’s Cyber Security Investigation Office said that, ‘Chinese hacking groups have been infiltrating government agencies and their information service providers for a long time’.

Australia announces copyright law reform

After two years of industry consultations, the Australian government has announced a reform of its copyright regulations to provide a more flexible framework for content access in the digital environment. The copyright law reform includes five main areas: introducing a limited liability scheme for use of orphan works; a new fair dealing exception for non-commercial quotation; amendments to library and archives exceptions; amendments to education exceptions; and streamlining the government's statutory licensing scheme. The current regulations were deemed too restrictive and harmful to the consumer.

Chinese banks hit with heavy fines over data protection breaches

According to the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), the Shanghai Supervision Bureau of China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission fined two Chinese banks 1 million CYN (approximately 120 000 euro) for failing to properly protect their consumers' personal data. The China Merchants Bank was fined after an investigation that uncovered a five-year lapse in data security. The Bank of Communications was fined for a similar lack of security, related to credit card information collection.

Latest data on online gender-based violence in the Philippines

The Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) has published the latest data on online gender-based violence (OGBV) in the Philippines, based on the Take Back the Tech mapping tool. Between 1 January and 23 June 2020, the platform recorded 64 OGBV reports. This shows a 30% increase of OGBV since 2019.

Among the top technology-related abuses are the unauthorised use of photo and video material, violent threats and blackmail, and abusive comments, followed by deletion and manipulation of personal data, monitoring and tracking, repeated harassment, sharing and/or dissemination of private information, and unauthorised access of private data.

Mobile phones are predominantly used for OGBV, followed by Facebook, Messenger, and Telegram. Most women who experience online violence are between 18-30 years old. Four out of every ten are under the age of 18. Perpetrators are mostly strangers. Data shows that during online protests, many fake accounts were made from which the threatening messages were sent. Rape threats were sent to women activists. 

Undersea cable inaugurated between Chennai and Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The Indian Prime Minister inaugurated a 2313 km undersea submarine optical fibre cable (OFC) that was laid down between Chennai and Port Blair, and is expected to cover seven of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This submarine cable is expected to provide better and cheaper connectivity, as well as boosting tele-education, tele-health, tourism, and banking services on the islands.

Two persons arrested in Hyderabad for viewing CSAM online

The cybercrime police unit in Hyderabad, India, have arrested two people for allegedly watching child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online, which was identified by the Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (OCSAE) Prevention and Investigation Unit of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). According to information, the two accused have been arrested, and their mobile phones have been seized.

Huawei launches ICT Certification Program in Asia-Pacific

During the Huawei Asia Pacific ICT Talent Forum 2020, the Huawei Asia Pacific ICT Certification Program was launched for students and information and communications technology (ICT) practitioners who have joined or plan to join the Huawei Asia Pacific ICT Academy. The programme, which runs between 4 August and 30 November 2020, will award on a ‘first come, first served basis to participants who pass the exams in the shortest time.

'We aim to globally develop 2 million ICT professionals over the next five years to match the high demand for skilled workers’, noted Huawei Asia-Pacific, Chief Digital Officer and Executive Consultant, Michael Macdonald. Moreover, he said that they planned to build more than 200 Huawei ICT Academies and train 10 000 ICT professionals in the Asia Pacific region, in 2020.

Singapore and Australia sign Digital Economy Agreement

The Ministry for Trade and Industry, Singapore, and the Ministry for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Australia have signed the Singapore-Australia Digital Economy Agreement (SADEA) for facilitating the digitalisation of trade processes and easing cross-border business activities between Singapore and Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. SADEA is expected to facilitate trusted cross-border data flows without the requirement of data localisation, while protecting consumers’ privacy and businesses’ proprietary information.

Australia releases Cybersecurity Strategy 2020

The Australian Government has released their Cybersecurity Strategy 2020 with a vision of securing the online world for their citizens, businesses, and essential services amidst growing cybersecurity threats, both from state and not state actors. Built on the 2016 Cyberecurity Strategy, the government plans to invest AU$1.67 billion over 10 years to achieve this vision.

Some of the highlights of the strategy include: protecting the critical infrastructure, including cybersecurity obligations for owners and operators; new ways to investigate and shut-down cybercrime, even on the dark web; strengthening government networks and data and enhancing incident response procedures; greater collaboration to build cyber-skills; increased situational awareness and improved sharing of threat information; strengthening partnerships with industry through the Joint Cyber Security Centre Programme; advising small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to increase their cyber resilience; providing clear guidance for businesses and consumers on securing Internet of Things devices; and initiating a 24/7 cybersecurity advice hotline for SMEs and families, and improved community awareness of cybersecurity threats.

New Zealand investigates COVID-19 patient privacy breach

New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner John Edwards announced that his office is undertaking an inquiry into the distribution of COVID-19 patient information by the Ministry of Health. The decision was made in response to the publication of Queen’s Counsel (QC) Michael Heron’s report into the patient privacy breach. The report looked into the report by the NZ Herald that it had received confidential patient information of 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on a spreadsheet that contains their names, dates of birth, age, and quarantine location. The information was leaked to the press by Hamish Walker, Member of Parliament for Clutha-Southland, with an intention to expose the government’s shortcomings in regards to privacy and data protection. The privacy commissioner will inquire what further action, if any, under the Privacy Act was appropriate.

UN ESCAP launches call for research proposals on evidence-based financial solutions for women entrepreneurs in Asia-Pacific

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has launched a call for research proposals, and will provide up to US$25 000 in funding for a maximum of 6 proposals. The research should explore the nuanced challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in accessing financing at different stages of their enterprise journey, and offer solutions to those challenges.

The objective of this applied research is to identify innovative financial solutions that can be developed or tailored to best address the needs and demands of women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Samoa, and/or Vietnam. The research findings, which will be made publicly available, will be used to inform the design of private sector solutions that enhance different groups of women entrepreneurs’ access and use of financial services, as well as inspire replication of proposed solutions on the market. Applications are open until 31 August 2020.

Chinese company sues Apple over alleged voice recognition patent infringement

Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) company Shanghai Zhizhen Intelligent Network Technology (also known as Xiao-i) has filed a lawsuit against Apple over an alleged infringement of a voice recognition patent. The company is claiming 10 billion yuan (US$1.43 billion) from Apple, arguing that the technology behind Apple's smart assistant Siri is infringing on a patent that the company was granted in 2009. Xiao-i wants Apple to stop manufacturing, using, promising to sell, selling, and importing Siri. In reaction, Apple has indicated that Siri does not contain features included in the mentioned patent. The dispute between the two companies is not new: Xiao-i filed an initial complaint in 2012 and was followed by a request by Apple to invalidate its patent.