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The role of Public Policy in Advancing Cloud Computing in Asia
Source: futuregov
Source Date: Thursday, September 09, 2010
Focus: Knowledge Management in Government
Country: Singapore
Created: Sep 09, 2010

As Asia develops economically, there is a real opportunity for governments and business across the region to collaborate technology policies that encourage greater business and trade collaboration, and facilitate integration and sustainable growth in the region. John Galligan, Regional Director for Internet Policy for Microsoft APAC, is one who has his policy-making head in the Cloud.

I am writing this in an office overlooking Marina Bay in the Central Business District of Singapore. Since the 17th century, this area has been where global trade lines have converged, resulting in economic and cultural enrichment for Singapore. It, like many Asian countries, is stepping confidently into a new economic era.

However, as an economic entity, Asia faces some challenges as it develops its human capital and knowledge based economies. While other economic blocs, the US and EU for example, have unifying policies in place to both promote trade and industry, and its member’s interests, Asia lack the equivalent political or economic framework.

However, one thing that Asian markets have in common is the drive to develop robust IT infrastructure to support, and foster, economic growth and the advent of Cloud Computing presents incredible opportunities to help transform business, government and citizens. But a key ingredient will be the right public policy framework.

As former advisor to members of the US Senate on Technology and Intellectual Property Stacy Baird said in a blog recently and I quote: “The Cloud represents the Next Big Thing in I.T. and economic opportunity for a country with compatible, technology-neutral laws and public policies abounds.” “Thus, it is becoming increasingly important for policy makers to ensure their domestic policies are technology-neutral not only to meet the needs of global trade, international law and the interest of economic development, but to also enable domestic companies to take the greatest advantage of the opportunities cloud computing has to offer,” adds Baird.

This is because the Cloud presents complexities for policy makers because it throws up a range of difficult, and often sensitive, technology, social and political issues. These vary from broadband access, security and cybercrime, privacy and data governance, to the protection of intellectual property and free expression.

At another level, it is challenging to try and determine which jurisdiction’s rules apply to which Cloud services and their associated data, particularly given the prevalence of trans-border data flows. This is because of the tension created when competing authorities assert jurisdiction over Cloud services and data across state and national borders. We have seen many examples here in the region recently where governments are seeking greater access and control over online services from internet filtering, to law enforcement access to data services to how free expression is managed on the web.

Despite these issues, some sort of regulatory balance will have to be achieved between sovereignty and efficiency. To that end, governments in Southeast Asia are in a prime position to design regulatory and legal frameworks that help build trust and confidence in the design and deployment of the cloud as well as inspire new innovation and social change from cloud services.

This takes me back to Singapore as a trade hub. Singapore continues to lead by example and through experience and the Singapore government is working hard to position the nation as a regional data hub as well as foster new IT ecosystems off the back of these data services. One recent example of this leadership is Project Nimbus; a cloud based service running on Microsoft’s Windows Azure where data from government and commercial entities are exchanged and provided to third party developers to build applications running in the cloud. These applications are as diverse as helping citizens find their local library, to getting real-time traffic updates – even where to buy the best chicken rice. This sharing of data in the cloud is an example that perhaps other markets might look in terms of opening up public sector information and inspiring local software and application development.

But for Singapore to realise this ambition, it needs to continue to take a leadership role in progressing public policy that builds confidence and trust in the management and security of data as well as promote new rules across the region for the most effective trade of information between countries. Singapore’s history of free trade and economic integration positions it well for leading this agenda across forums such as ASEAN and APEC as well as bi-lateral trade negotiations.

But, to mix my metaphors, no cloud is an island and there is an historic opportunity for Asian economies to negotiate an appropriate framework that would enable open and secure trade in online services while reducing the legislative provisions and regulatory practices that inhibit the flow of and storage of information within and between jurisdictions. The dividends from embracing a connected digital economy in Asia will be profound and help promote further productivity and economic growth and establish the region as the cloud computing leader.

John Galligan is the Regional Director for Internet Policy for Microsoft. Based in Singapore, his role is to support markets across Asia-Pacific to promote Microsoft’s internet policy agenda – including privacy, security, Cloud computing and the online ecosystem. Galligan will be speaking at the Government Cloud Forum on September 15, 2010, at the Orchard Hotel, Singapore, about “Public Policy in Advancing Cloud Computing: New Opportunities, Challenges, and Responsibilities”.

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