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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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.

August 2018

Curated by 

Amrita Choudhury

Austarlia seeks comments on the Assistance and Access Bill 2018

15 Aug 2018 | 


The Australian government has released the draft Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 also known as the Assistance and Access Bill, which aims to provide law enforcement and security agencies with the power to respond to the challenges posed by encryption. Some of the discussion related to the bill is related to the obligations of technology providers and producers to work for law enforcement agencies, the power of law enforcement agencies to seize information directly from a device, and allowing government operatives to access more data through current warrants. The draft bill is open to public comments until 10 September 2018.

Malaysia scraps the 'fake news' law

17 Aug 2018 | 

Content policy

The current Malaysian government has repealed the 'Fake News' legislation of the previous government which allowed authorities to set fines and even jail people up to six years, if they are found guilty of spreading 'fake news', which many believed was against the freedom of expression.

Indian Government seeks comments on the Personal Data Protection Bill 2018

14 Aug 2018 | 

Privacy and data protection

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, is seeking public comments on the Personal Data Protection Bill by the Justice Srikrishna Committee by 10 September 2018. Some of the salient features of the draft include: defining personal data; classifying sensitive personal data; the need for consent to process personal data; providing certain rights to data principals such as right to be forgotten; confirmation and access, right to data portability etc.; extending the law to data fiduciaries who may be located overseas but processing Indian data; need for platforms to adhere to certain accountability and transparency meansures such a privacy by design, record keeping, appointing a data protection officer, etc.; setting up an independent Data Protection Authority of India to oversee the enforcement of the bill and financial penalties for non compliance. Some of the most discussed aspects of the bill include the mandate of mainitaining a copy of all personal data locally, users not having complete ownership of their data and the role and authority of the state to process personal date without consent, etc.

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.​



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