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.

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June 2018

Curated by 

Amrita Choudhury

BEREC and TRAI announce collaborative work on net neutrality

14 Jun 2018 | 

Network neutrality

The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) through which the two parties aim to promote competitive markets, technological innovation, and value for consumers. BEREC and TRAI have also adopted a Joint Statement for an Open Internet that outlines the common scope and grounds of net neutrality frameworks in Europe and India and show the parties’ commitment to the supervision and enforcement of rules and guidelines for an open Internet in their regions. It also intends to show the willingness of both sides to develop interregional co-operation and exchanges between regulators regarding the implementation of best practices for net neutrality.​

Bitcoin price plunges after cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea is hacked

11 Jun 2018 | 

E-Money and virtual currencies, Cybersecurity, Cybercrime

News of the South Korean Cryptocurrency exchange Conrail being compromised has lead to a sharp drop in the global price of bitcoin and other virtual currencies.  Conrail has attributed this attack to a ‘cyber intrusion’ that lead to the loss of about 30% of the coins traded on the exchange.  While the organisation did not quantify the value, a local South Korean news agency, Yonhap, estimated that nearly GBP£27.8m worth of virtual coins was stolen. This attack once again highlights the lack of security and weak regulation of global the cryptocurrency market.​

Singapore launches AI governance and ethics initiatives

6 Jun 2018 | 


The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) in Singapore has announced three initiatives aimed at 'engaging key stakeholders including government, industry, consumers and academia to collaboratively shape IMDA's plans for the artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem. First, a multistakeholder Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of AI and Data, to be appointed by the Minister for Communications and Information, will assist the government in developing ethical standards and reference governance frameworks for the development and deployment of AI. Second, to support the work of the Advisory Council, a discussion paper on AI and Data Governance Frameworks was put forward to encourage discussions around two key principles: (1) decisions made by or with the assistance of AI should be explainable, transparent and fair for consumers; (2) AI systems, robots and decisions should be human-centric. Third, a five-year Research Programme on the governance of AI and Data Use is to be set up at the Singapore Management University, to carry research on 'research on policy, legal, regulatory, governance, ethics and other issues relating to AI and data use'.​

Indian government think-tank releases discussion paper on national AI strategy

4 Jun 2018 | 


NITI Ayog, the Indian government’s think-tank, has released a discussion paper on the National Strategy For Artificial Intelligence, for guiding research and development in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies. The paper identifies five sectors where AI could be used to serve societal needs: healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities and infrastructure, and transportation. The paper also highlights five main barriers that may hamper India from reaping the benefits of AI. Additionally, to address India's AI research aspirations, the paper has proposed a two-tiered structure with setting up of a Centre of Research Excellence (CORE) and an International Centre of Transformational AI (ICTAI).​

Cambodia to monitor news and social media to prevent fake news

4 Jun 2018 | 

Content policy, Freedom of expression, Other human rights

The government of Cambodia has issued a prakas (regulation) 'to prevent ... the spreading of information – whether in the form of text, voice, picture, video or other media – that would cause chaos and threaten national security and defence, harm relations with other countries, the national economy, public order, and discriminate against the cultural integrity of the country', as stated in The Phnom Penh Post's Government Beefs up Internet Surveillance. According to a government official cited in the Southeast Asia Globe, the degree was not a crackdown, nor had anything to do with the upcoming elections. However, Free Malaysia Today called it 'the government’s latest move to control information ahead of a general election in July'. Staff from three government ministries would monitor content, and ISPs will also be required to filter or block any content that violates the law.​

May 2018

Curated by 

Shita Laksmi

Malaysia: Fake News Act

21 May 2018 | 

Content policy

The new Malaysian Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Gobind Singh Deo, said on 21 May that the Fake News Act in Malaysia will be repealed. He made the announcement just after being sworn into office in Istana Negara together with 12 other cabinet members. The repeal of this act was also written in the Pakatan Harapan Manifesto, to be discussed with his team on his  first day in office. The Minister also made it known that improving the freedom of press in Malaysia was one of his key priorities.​

ASEAN tackling fake news

10 May 2018 | 

Content policy

The ASEAN ministers that are responsible for information gathered in Singapore on 10 May 2018 and discussed how to tackle fake news. They agreed to collaborate and exchange best practices in combating fake news and mitigating its harmful effects, and started to develop a framework and joint declaration that will serve as a basis to strengthen co-operation, share ideas and propose viable solutions.

Botnets in Malaysia election

9 May 2018 | 


During the general elections held on 9 May 2018 in Malaysia, some candidates from political parties such as Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan reported that they received repetitive ‘spam’ calls from both Malaysia and foreign countries, which they categorised as ‘cyberattacks’. The anonymous calls prevented the receivers from using their phones for communications. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said in a statement that initial investigations pointed to a ‘bot attack’, but did not identify the likely source of the attack.

April 2018

Curated by 

Shita Laksmi

ASEAN: Cybersecurity in the spotlight

28 Apr 2018 | 


Cybersecurity came into focus at the 32nd ASEAN Meeting Summit held in Singapore from 26–28 April 2018. At the end of the Summit, Singapore, as the chair of ASEAN in 2018, released a statement which underlined the addition of cybersecurity in ASEAN’s agenda. This is in light of the recognition of the growing urgency and sophistication of transboundary cyberthreats. States are asked to consider and recommend feasible options of coordinating cybersecurity issues.​ 

ASEAN: Smart city networks

26 Apr 2018 | 

Internet of Things (IoT)

The 32nd ASEAN Meeting Summit held in Singapore on 26–28 April 2018 released a concept note of the ASEAN smart city network. Ten ASEAN leaders have agreed to fulfil the vision to build a resilient and innovative ASEAN, amidst rapid changes in Southeast Asia and beyond. The Smart City network is envisioned as a collaborative platform where up to three cities per ASEAN country work towards the common goal of smart and sustainable urban development. There are 26 cities being selected, among them are Jakarta, Bangkok, Phuket, Davao City and Kuching.​

March 2018

Curated by 

Amrita Choudhury​

Singapore contemplating new fake news law

23 Mar 2018 | 

Content policy, Freedom of expression

There are reports of Singapore contemplating to bring in new laws to address the threat of fake news. Fake news has been on the rise and many countries are looking to introduce legislation to rein in the fake news trend, which many, including social media companies, feel may be used by governments to exert control over the media. Social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, have expressed their concerns on the possible plans by Singapore to bring in a new law to tackle the threat of fake news, arguing that sufficient rules are already in place.

Internet in local Indian languages could add 200 million new users

22 Mar 2018 | 

Access, Multilingualism

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Kantar IMRB have released a report ‘Internet in Indic’, suggesting that providing Internet in Indic or local Indian languages could be a key motivator to encourage 23% of non-users to go digital in India, which is approximately 200 million. The report mentions that currently, Indic content accounts for barely 0.1% of the worldwide Internet content. In contrast, China has the highest number of Internet users, using the Mandarin script which is today the second most popular language on the Internet. The report recommends that in order for India to increase Internet adoption, an Indic Internet ecosystem needs to be developed.

Malaysia meets tech companies on fake news and taxation

21 Mar 2018 | 

Content policy, Taxation

The Malaysian government has met with Internet companies to discuss draft laws on fake news and taxation. The draft laws on fake news would remove ‘fake news that threatens public order and national security’, which is likely to be presented in two weeks. The Malay government is also considering a tax reform that would tax large Internet companies on their advertising revenue, similar to proposals discussed in the EU and the UK, and to new laws that have recently been adopted by Vietnam. Yet, in implementing the revenu tax, the Vietnamese government has encountered difficulties in collecting revenue tax, as it has proven to be difficult for authorities to determine the appropriate tax collection form.

Report on digital surveillance from Pakistan

21 Mar 2018 | 

Freedom of expression, Privacy and data protection

A report ‘Dangers of Digital Surveillance’ highlighting issues of digital surveillance on journalists and human rights defenders in Pakistan has been released by Bytes for All, Pakistan. This report states that digital surveillance is resulting in self-censorship in the country and recommends legislature to revisit anti-privacy sections in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and the Investigation for Fair Trial Act 2013 of Pakistan, which permit the state institutions to carry out arbitrary and disproportionate interception of communications by journalists and human rights defenders. The report also recommended promoting and facilitating the use of encrypted communications in order to ensure the safety and security of digital communications.

Social media shut down in Sri Lanka

11 Mar 2018 | 

Content policy, Freedom of expression

Social media such as Facebook, and messaging services such as WhatsApp and Viber were blocked in Sri Lanka, following incidents of communal violence in the city of Kandy,  where the government imposed a State of Emergency (SoE). The government claims that a considerable amount of misinformation and racial hate speech had been spread using social media platforms to incite people, and the blockaging was intended to prevent the spread of rumors and incendiary posts and comments that may trigger further violence. Meanwhile various organisations have called on the government to call off the online blockage as it was affecting the common citizen adversely.

February 2018

Curated by 

Shita Laksmi

Islamabad high courts declared mobile network shutdown illegal

26 Feb 2018 | 

Freedom of expression, Access

The Islamabad high court declared that governmental-imposed mobile network shutdown is illegal. This decision was issues in response to a petition filed by four residents of Islamabad in April 2016. Their petition was related to intermittent mobile network shutdowns that occured in Islamabad in March 2016, and it claimed that the shutdowns had affected their basic rights. The judge decided that the government’s decision to suspend mobile networks for purposes of maintaining law, order, and national security, was in contradiction with the Pakistani constitution. The decision was described as a ‘great victory for digital rights’ by advocate Umer Gilani, who led the case: ‘This judgment has far reaching implications for mobile users in other areas of Pakistan. Anyone can now approach Islamabad High Court for contempt of court in case his mobile services are suspended.’

Research on Internet penetration and behaviour in Indonesia

6 Feb 2018 | 


Indonesia Internet Service Provider Association (APJII) released a report on Internet Penetration and Behaviour in Indonesia, showing that Internet penetration has reached 143,26 million people out of 262 million inhabitants. The penetration rate has increased from last year (132,7 million people). Among women, 48,57% of them accessed Internet in 2017, while the percentage for men was at 51,42%. Internet penetration rate in the Java island is 58,08%, significantly higher than other islands in Indonesia. The report also shows that 50,08% of Indonesians are using smartphones and tablets, while 25,72% are using computers or laptops. This is also reflected in the number of people accessing Internet: 44,16% people are accessing the Internet via smartphone and tablet, and only 4,49% have the Internet via computer.

Cybersecurity issues in focus in ASEAN

6 Feb 2018 | 


A.T. Kearney released a report titled ‘Cyber Security in ASEAN: An Urgent Call for Action’, warning about cyber-risks in the region and calling upon countries to take action to protect themselves. Southeast Asian nations have a USD$2.7 trillion GDP, making the region the world’s seventh largest market. With a population of 645 million people, ASEAN is the third most populous market in the world. The region’s growing relevance makes it prime target for cyberattacks. According to the report, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam are global hotspots for major blocked suspicious web activities. Spam botnets are also finding ASEAN countries to be attractive hosts for their attacks. If ASEAN failed to protect its cybersecurity, the research calculate that top 1,000 ASEAN companies could lose USD$750 billion in market capitalisation. The report highlights four urgent action for ASEAN: (1) elevate cybersecurity on the regional policy agenda, (2) secure a sustained commitment to cybersecurity, (3) fortify the ecosystem, and (4) Build the next wave of cybersecurity capability.

Cybersecurity featured among the topics discussed at the latest meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministry of ASEAN countries, held this month in Singapore, as Singapore is taking ASEAN Chairmanship in 2018. Ministers agreed on the importance of strengthening cybersecurity cooperation as a key element towards supporting the development of the digital economy. They also recognised the need for better coordination of cybersecurity policies and capacity building efforts in ASEAN.



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