Asean cyberlaw still some way to go

Southeast Asia countries have intention to set up regional cyberlaw and talks ongoing, but challenges such as national sovereignty continue to hamper progress, reveals Malaysia's government agency.

SINGAPORE--Cyberlaws are needed to regulate the shift as more companies look to move their business from the physical to the virtual world to tap cloud computing benefits, but such regulations are still some ways off in Southeast Asia.

Ng Wan Peng, COO of Malaysia's Media Development Corporation (MDeC), noted that while data protection and IT-related laws have been passed in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, for example, these legislations are still confined within national boundaries.

A speaker for a panel discussion at the Cloud Asia conference held here Tuesday, Ng told ZDNet Asia at the sidelines that among Asean states, there is "intention" to enact regional cyberlaws and talks are "ongoing". However, she conceded that there are still challenges to overcome, particularly in finding a common ground where the laws passed will be "beneficial for everyone".

In the meantime, she noted that existing international trade laws will continue to play a role in terms of supporting business transactions conducted over the Internet, although she acknowledged that these alone would not be enough.

Fellow panelist and assistant CEO of infrastructure and development services at Singapore's Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), Khoong Hock Yun, agreed that there are ongoing discussions on how to better regulate the still-nascent cloud computing development including at the ministerial level, where issues such as systems resilience and data protection have been addressed during events such as the ICT trade show imbX held annually in Singapore.

That said, Khoong urged stakeholders to consider the rationale for instituting laws related to cloud computing, noting that regulations should not crimp innovation but are created to highlight parameters for companies to work within.

Ng pointed out that among the Asean member states, those that are willing and have the foundations in place are "likely" to lead the way in implementing cross-border cyber laws. Areas such as e-commerce would be good starting points on which countries can work together, she added.

The establishment of cloud standards would have most impact among app developers, as this would aid in quick deployments, though end-users might not view it as a critical component to have, she noted.

Among small and midsize businesses (SMBs), on the other hand, awareness of how to utilize cloud computing and the lowered initial investments needed to reinvent their IT systems are more pressing issues than having common cloud standards, Ng said.

Infrastructure challenges
Elsewhere, vast countries such as Indonesia with their many islands face more fundamental challenges to boost cloud computing uptake.

Heru Sutadi, commissioner of the Indonesian Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (BRTI), noted during the panel discussion that the country comprises more than 17,000 islands as well as 33 provinces.

The geographical challenge is particularly evident in eastern Indonesia, where the sheer number of islands make it difficult for the BRTI and its IT partners to deploy broadband cables to households in the area. Regardless, Sutadi revealed that the Indonesian government will still be looking to fulfill its pledge to wire up the whole country by 2015.

Local carrier Telekomunikasi Indonesia last Friday announced plans to invest 21 trillion rupiah (US$$2.48 billion) to build its broadband network across the archipelago, Reuters reported.