Regional updates: Asia

What were the main digital policy regional updates in Asia? This space brings you the main updates month by month, summarised by the observatory's curators.

Follow the GIP's April briefing on Internet governance, which will include updates from the Asian region during April. Register to attend.

January 2019

Curated by 

Shita Laksmi

Law on Cyber Security

1 Jan 2019 | 

Content policy, Privacy and data protection, Intermediaries, Other human rights

The implementation of the Law on Cyber Security in Vietnam started on 1 January 2019. According to the online newspaper of the government, the Law on Cyber Security protects national security and ensures social order and safety in cyberspace, and the responsibility of agencies, organisations, and individuals.

The 7 chapters and 43 articles of the law oblige Internet companies to store their data locally and hand over the data to the government upon request, without a warrant.(link) The law also requires Internet companies to remove information that is deemed to be against the government.

In his New Year's Day speech, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said, that ‘Mass communication efforts must be stepped up to create “social consensus” and those abusing the freedom of information and free speech, causing harm to the interests of the state and citizens would receive appropriate punishments.’

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the communist authorities to revise the law and postpone its implementation. Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of HRW said that this law is designed to further enable the Ministry of Public Security's pervasive surveillance to spot critics, and to deepen the Communist Party's monopoly on power. The law comes into force a week after Vietnam's Association of Journalists announced a new code of conduct on the use of social media by its members, forbidding reporters to post news, picture and comments that ‘run counter to’ the state.

Fairness, Accountability, Transparency (FAT)/Asia Conference

11 Jan 2019 | 

The Fairness, Accountability, Transparency (FAT)/Asia conference was held at Digital Hub Asia, in partnership with the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. Digital Hub Asia itself is an organisation conceived by the Berkman Klein Centre at Harvard University based in Hong Kong.

The conference was held to address the lack of discussion on artificial intelligence (AI) and its implications in the region. Some of the main questions being considered were on biases in AI and how to ensure its transparency and accountability. The conference also discussed geopolitics and the political economy dimensions in AI development.

Among some developments in Asia, a paper by Vidushi Marda about the limitations of data driven technologies was mentioned as well as some of her recommended approaches.

WhatsApp limits users forwarding message in Indonesia

21 Jan 2019 | 

Content policy

WhatsApp has limited the number of forwarded message in Indonesia, starting on 21 January 2019. This was announced right after a meeting between Rudiantara, the minister of communication and informatics and Victoria Grand, vice president public policy and communications at WhatsApp.

The main objective of this limitation is to curb the spreading of fake media and disinformation. Moreover, Indonesia will hold its national election in April this year, therefore political content is highly sensitive.

Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp have promised to get tougher on ‘fake news’ ahead of key elections in Asia. The new policies start in India, which goes to the polls in April and May – and is Facebook’s biggest national market outside the United States. The company announced that it is looking into doing the same in other Asian nations, such as Australia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand and taking into account different threats and local laws.

Internet service for all Thai villages

22 Jan 2019 | 

Telecommunications infrastructure

‘Thailand will become a full-fledged broadband nation by the end of 2019 by providing Internet access to an additional 50 000 villages this year,’ said Pichet Durongkaveroj, minister of digital economy and society, during the Asean Digital Infrastructure seminar.(link)

The seminar was organised by the Asean Business Advisory Council (Asean BAC) – Thailand, in co-operation with the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) and discussed the biggest hurdle in implementing industry 4.0 in the Asean. ‘For example, there is limited broadband access in the rural areas, especially in countries with a vast population such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, where Internet connectivity remains relatively poor’, said Arin Jira, chairman of Asean BAC.

Arin stressed the importance of having an adequate digital infrastructure so that business opportunities via e-commerce, international trade, and e-payments can be capitalised on throughout the region.

December 2018

Curated by 

Amrita Choudhury

Australia passes controversial law on encryption

7 Dec 2018 | 

Encryption, Privacy and data protection

Australia has passed the controversial Assistance and Access Bill, designed to compel technology companies to allow law enforcement agencies access to encrypted messages. According to the Guardian, the law intends to ‘co-opt technology companies, device manufacturers and service providers into building the functionality needed for police to do their spying’ and ‘give to Australian agencies the ability to install key logging software to enable them to see, keystroke by keystroke, what users type into a message’. The law was adopted despite strong criticism from civil society organisations and leading tech companies, such as Apple, Cisco, Mozilla, Google, and Facebook.

Australia announces new Universal Service Guarantee (USG)

12 Dec 2018 | 


The government of Australia has introduced the new Universal Service Guarantee (USG) which is an update of the long existing Universal Service Obligation (USO). The USG has the primary aim of ensuring that all Australians have access to broadband services. The USG assures all Australian homes and businesses of the government's commitment to provide them with access to broadband and voice services regardless of their locations. The USG will leverage Australia’s National Broadband Network and the expanded mobile coverage services under the Mobile Black Spot Programme to fulfil this objective.  

China issues a policy paper on the European Union that outlines possible areas of co-operation to enhance sustainable development through digital means

18 Dec 2018 | 

Cybersecurity, Development - other, Economic - other issues, Privacy and data protection

China has published a policy paper on possible measures to enhance the China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and promote greater development of China-EU relations. The paper addresses issues related to the co-operation in political, security and defence fields that include the 'good use of the China-EU Cyber Taskforce, jointly advocate a community with a shared future in cyberspace, promote norms for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace under the UN framework, and advance the reform of the global Internet governance system for a peaceful, secure, open, co-operative and orderly cyberspace.' Additionally, the paper tackles the co-operation in scientific research, innovation, emerging industries, and sustainable development through 'Digital China' and the EU Digital Single Market where exchanges and co-operation between China and the EU are further required. It also refers to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) hoping that its implementation will not affect normal business interactions between the two sides. According to the paper, co-operation on data protection between China and the EU will continue to protect personal information and the legitimate rights of citizens.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States blame China for APT10 attacks

21 Dec 2018 | 

Cyberconflict, Cybersecurity, Cybercrime

Officials from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States are blaming China for the cyber-attacks against organisations that were launched by a group called APT10. They have all issued statements condemning China, and specifically its Ministry of State Security (MSS), for sponsoring the APT10 attacks.

According to the authorities, the victims of this operation included a global financial institution, three companies involved in commercial or industrial manufacturing, three telecommunications and consumer electronics firms, a healthcare company, an automotive supplier, a drilling company, a biotechnology company and two consulting companies. While the Justice Department has not named any of the victims, Reuters reported that the list includes HPE and IBM.

Singapore Government launches second Bug Bounty Initiative

21 Dec 2018 | 


The Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore along with HackerOne, a hacker-powered security platform, will be organising the second Bug Bounty Initiative. This initiative will offer a select group of local bug bounty hackers a monetary reward for reporting valid vulnerabilities in public- facing government systems so that they can be safely resolved inorder to keep the systems secure.

China launches first communication satellite for space-based broadband project

22 Dec 2018 | 


China launched their first communication satellite aimed to provide broadband Internet services worldwide, especially in under served regions. This is part of the Hongyun project planned by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC). 'After a year long in-orbit technological demonstration by the satellite, CASIC plans to launch four mass-production Hongyun satellites before the end of 2020 to form a small network for Hongyun's trial run', the Daily quoted Xiang as saying.

November 2018

Curated by 

Shita Laksmi

Internet freedom in Asia

10 Nov 2018 | 

Freedom of expression, Other human rights

The report, Freedom on the Net 2018: The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism, published on 1 November 2018 shows that this year, Asia is leading the world in intentional Internet disruptions, egregious criminal penalties for online activities, and violence triggered by online disinformation. Score improvements in Asia were difficult to obtain as authorities in China actively propagated their techno-dystopian model both at home and abroad.

The Philippines went from the status ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’ as content manipulation and cyber-attacks threatened to distort online information, while Bangladesh and Thailand both saw some improvements.

ASEAN Summit: Ease of doing e-commerce in ASEAN

During the ASEAN Summit in November 2018 in Singapore, Southeast Asian ministers signed a landmark pact, The ASEAN Agreement on Electronic Commerce, to create a conducive environment for e-commerce in the ASEAN region. This pact seeks to strengthen trust and confidence in online transactions and help state members seize opportunities to grow their economies.

The Agreement’s objectives are to:

(i) Facilitate cross-border e-commerce transactions;  

(ii) Contribute to creating an environment of trust and confidence in the use of e-Commerce; and  

(iii) Deepen co-operation among ASEAN Member States to further develop and intensify.

BBC Research: Nationalism is behind disinformation in India

12 Nov 2018 | 

Content policy

A rising tide of nationalism in India is driving ordinary citizens to spread fake news, according to BBC research. The results of the research, published on 12 November 2018, are based on the BBC’s extensive access to the phones of the participants over a seven-day period, allowing the researchers to examine the kinds of material they shared, whom they shared it with and how often.

The research showed that facts were less important to some than the emotional desire to bolster national identity. Social media analysis suggested that right-wing networks are much more organised than on the left, pushing nationalistic fake stories further.

Survey on Asia Pacific Internet Policy: ISOC on IoT, privacy and security risks

15 Nov 2018 | 

Cybersecurity, Internet of Things (IoT)

An Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau initiative, the Internet Society Survey on Policy Issues in Asia-Pacific conducted from 1 June - 3 August 2018, answered by 951 Internet users across 22 Asia-Pacific economies, examines how consumers in the region perceive and deal with Internet of Things (IoT) security and privacy risks. The key findings are that many of the users already have IoT devices and plan to purchase more. Users are aware of the privacy and security risks that come with IoT devices, but at the same time, have limited capacity in protecting themselves. They want to be informed and have more control over their security and privacy, and believe that governments should ensure that necessary measures are in place.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit ends without conclusion

19 Nov 2018 | 

Economic - other issues

The annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), held in Papua New Guinea, ended without any statements being issued. This is the first time that APEC has issued no formal written statement since the leaders in Asia-Pacific started the meeting in 1993. The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, blamed US and China for the discord. US Vice President, Mike Pence, warned nations against taking China’s massive Belt-and-Road infrastructure programme, which sees Beijing offer money to poorer countries for construction and development projects. While Chinese President Xi Jinping said that implementing tariffs and breaking US supply chains was ‘short-sighted’ and ‘doomed to failure’.

October 2018

Curated by 

Amrita Choudhury

Efforts to curb fake news in Indonesia

2 Oct 2018 | 

Content policy

Fake news continues to be of major concern in Indonesia, where the authorities have been struggling to counter fake news reports which have been causing panic among residents. The latest fake news in the country are related to an earthquake and Tsunami. To counter the fake news, the Indonesian Ministry of Information and Communication have issued two press releases for debunking 'hoax news'. The government had also announced that they will be holding weekly briefings on fake news to help the public 'sort through the news'.

Apple submits concerns related to encryption in Australia

12 Oct 2018 | 


Apple has submitted a statement to the Australian parliament, criticising the government's proposed Access and Assistance Bill 2018. Apart from requesting stronger encryption, Apple shared their concerns about reduced trust of consumers and their security due to insufficient judicial oversights, the possibility of future governments misusing their power to weaken cybersecurity and encryption, and the chances of the bill creating unprecedented interception requirements for Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) with secrecy mandates. Further, Apple raised concerns over the draft bill favouring the government’s interpretation of the law’s terms and the technical facts, which may invite uncertainty, confusion, and potential abuse.

Australia more vulnerable to Cyber Attacks in Asia

12 Oct 2018 | 


A new study, 'The Cisco 2018 Asia Pacific Security Capabilities Benchmark Study' which compares 11 countries and their cybersecurity capabilities revealed that each minute, around 6 threats are received by companies in the APAC region, 50% of which are investigated. The study further revealed that Australia faces more cyberattacks than the other nations studied with reports of up to 5 000 threats a day. 51% of cyberattacks in Southeast Asia resulted in a loss of more than USD$ 1 million .

September 2018

Curated by 

Shita Laksmi

Jack Ma meets with Indonesian President

1 Sep 2018 | 

, Economic - other issues

Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, met with the President of Indonesia Joko Widodo on 1 September 2018. They discussed the next Asian Games which will be held in Hangzhou, where Alibaba has its headquarters. They also discussed Ma’s potential investment in Indonesia. The big role of small and medium sized enterprises in Indonesia was mentioned as being one of the key drivers for the better development of e-commerce in the country.

World Economic Forum on ASEAN

13 Sep 2018 | 

Economic - other issues,

The World Economic Forum (WEF) on ASEAN was held in Ha Noi, on 11-13 September. The event with the theme: ASEAN 4.0: Entrepreneurship and the Fourth Industrial Revolution attracted more than 1 100 participants and was attended by the prime ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, the Indonesian president and the Myanmar state counsellor. Digital ASEAN, one of the WEF’s flagship initiatives in Southeast Asia focuses on harmonising data policy and governance rules; upgrading broadband access, quality and speed; developing digital skills; improving co-operation for cybersecurity; and building a pan-regional e-payments ecosystem. At the end of the forum, Google announced that it is deepening its commitment to train 3 million workers from small and medium sized enterprises across all 10 countries in South-East Asia in digital skills by 2020.  

Establishing Singapore Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence

18 Sep 2018 | 


The Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Teo Chee Hean announced the establishment of the ASEAN – Singapore Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence on 18 September during the Singapore International Cyber Week. Chee Hean started his announcement by talking about a serious data breach that Singapore had recently had, which affected the personal data of 1.5 million healthcare patients, including the prime minister of Singapore. ‘We need to work together to strengthen our collective resilience against such threats’, said Chee Hean. The centre will expand on the existing ASEAN Cyber Capacity Program, a USD$10 million investment that Singapore made in 2016. As the chair of ASEAN this year, Singapore has made cybersecurity one of its key priorities.

Result of the 3rd ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Cybersecurity (AMCC)

19 Sep 2018 | 


The 3rd ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Cybersecurity (AMCC) was convened as part of the Singapore International Cyber Week. The AMCC was attended by the ministers and senior officials responsible for cybersecurity and information and communications technology (ICT) from all 10 ASEAN members states, including ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi. The AMCC followed up on the directions given by ASEAN leaders during the 32nd ASEAN Summit in April 2018, specifically to better coordinate ASEAN cybersecurity efforts. In the Chairman’s statement, AMCC participants stated their support for moving forward with discussions on the adoption of basic, operational and voluntary norms of behaviour in ASEAN to guide the use of ICT in a responsible manner. In this context, the AMCC agreed to subscribe in-principle to the 11 voluntary, non-binding norms recommended in the 2015 Report of the United Nations Group of Government Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (UNGGE).

Consultation meetings: UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation

19 Sep 2018 | 

Prof. Jovan Kurbalija, executive director and co-lead of the United Nations High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, held a series of consultation meetings in Singapore on 18-19 September. He spoke at the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy, explaining the role of the Panel and asking for the audience’s input. The topics covered in the consultations were on data governance and included data localisation and the negative impacts of (emerging) technology along and intermediary responsibilities. Kurbalija met with ASEAN representatives from Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar and Singapore to brief them about the work of the Panel and how they cancontribute.



The GIP Digital Watch observatory is provided by

in partnership with

and members of the GIP Steering Committee


GIP Digital Watch is operated by

Scroll to Top