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
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
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
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”.