Asia In Brief India’s government last week released a draft telco law that defines all over-the-top services as telecoms providers and therefore makes them subject to the same regulations imposed on carriers.
The draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022 [PDF] defines a telecommunications service as including “broadcasting services, electronic mail, voice mail, voice, video and data communication services” delivered over fixed or mobile networks. The Bill mentions over-the-top (OTT) communication services, too.
That becoming means India proposes to regulate the likes of Zoom, Gmail, and WhatsApp.
As pointed out by India’s Internet Freedom Foundation, the draft also requires all entities defined as telecommunications services operates to identify customers using whatever documentation the government decrees is necessary. The identity of the sender of any message must be made available to the recipient – a measure designed to reduce spam.
The draft also allows for India’s government to shut down the internet during public emergencies or to protect public safety. Regulators will also gain the power to “direct that communications or class of communications to or from any person or class of persons, or relating to any particular subject, transmitted or received by any telecommunication network shall be suspended.”
Or in other words, censorship during emergencies.
The Internet Freedom Foundation has criticized the draft as naïve, citing the presence of the WebRTC framework in most browsers and its enablement of real-time comms, and noting it is unregulated even though it can be used for the kind of interaction enabled by a videoconferencing app. The Foundation also has privacy concerns, and feels the Bill leaves some colonial era structures in place.
Consultation on the Bill is open until October 1.
– Simon Sharwood
China’s payment apps may enable crime, need more attention from US lawmakers, say experts
The US House Financial Services subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy last week considered whether payment systems operated in countries like China and Russia represent a threat – and was advised they probably do.
Experts warned that payment apps developed in these countries needed more attention as they could be used for nefarious purchases, much as they were used to influence 2016 US election results through Facebook ads.
“The nexus between adversarial illiberal regimes and cybercrime cartels acting as their proxies using these systems is clear. These alternative payment systems are not small, with China’s centralized virtual currencies WeChat pay and Alipay processing 294.6 trillion won or about 45.6 trillion dollars in 2020,” said global fellow at the Wilson Center Scott Dueweke, who pointed out this number “dwarfed” transactions conducted on other platforms during 2021.
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“In particular, alternative payment systems that are owned by, or based in, countries like Russia and China, raise key questions about the impact on national security, such as the efficacy of traditional regulatory and financial integrity tools, including US economic and trade sanctions , as well as the impact on the strength of the US dollar,” stated [PDF] the Memorandum on the hearing.
The committee added that the “US dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency allows US policymakers to leverage coercive economic measures” against its threats. High volumes of money moving in other instruments erodes that advantage.
Indonesia passes data protection law, ponders crypto rules
Indonesia’s parliament last week passed a long-awaited personal data protection bill that could see companies fined two percent of annual revenue for mishandling customer data.
Those falsifying personal data for personal gain could get up to six years jail time while those collecting data illegally might be required to spend five years behind bars.
Those whose data has been violated can receive financial compensation and also have the ability to withdraw consent of its usage at any time.
The bill, which has been in the works since 2016, also authorizes the formation of an oversight body to issue fines to violators.
Some lawmakers have said the law will make it easier for Indonesia to transfer data between countries with comparable laws. The country’s trade ministry has also proposed new rules for crypto asset exchanges.
The new law reportedly requires two-thirds of a crypto company’s board of directors and commissioners to be Indonesian citizens and reside locally.
The law also requires an exchange service to use a third party to house client investment and bans the reinvestment of assets.
No time frame was given for when the law will reach parliament.
Hong Kong to develop central bank digital currency
Hong Kong’s Monetary Authority last week decided to pursue development of a central bank digital currency (CBDC).
A strategy document [PDF] noted that previous work on an electronic Hong Kong Dollar (e-HKD) had not identified an urgent need to create such an instrument but expressed the opinion that global experiments in the field means a role for a local digital currency “can emerge quickly out of the rapid evolution, or even revolution, in the digital economy.”
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The potential for CBDCs to take off as a cheaper and faster means of cross-border payments is seen as the likely driver of the need to develop digital currencies.
Hong Kong’s CBDC development plan will see it work on two development “rails” – one considering technical architectural matters and the other focusing on applications and integration with banks and retailers. The document expects both efforts to extend beyond the year 2023 with implementation of the CBDC assumed to be several years away.
– Simon Sharwood
AWS adds Cantonese option
Amazon Web Services last week announced its Polly text-to-speech service can speak Cantonese.
Dubbed Hiujin, the service is offered in 13 AWS regions and provides full support for traditional Chinese characters plus limited support for simplified characters. “As English is one of the official languages in Hong Kong and mixing English words with Cantonese is very common, we have optimized the performance on common English-Cantonese mixed sentence to make Hiujin sound more natural,” AWS stated. – Simon Sharwood
India’s chip and display incentives to reap $25 billion, says IT minister
India’s IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar reportedly said India can expect $25 billion of inbound investment thanks to a $10 billion incentive scheme that promotes local semiconductor and panel display manufacturing.
A previous agreement saw India’s government subsidize between 30 and 50 percent of costs for the facilities to build chips and displays. India has since removed the ceiling on incentives offered to display manufacturers.
Chandrasekhar did not name any companies that have committed to the scheme.
In late August, India set a target of quadrupling local electronics manufacturing to $300 billion by 2026. At that rate of annual revenue, India’s electronics manufacturing industry would be bigger than its famed IT services sector.
The IT minister also reportedly expressed support for IT workers who moonlight in second jobs. Taking on a side hustle is a hot topic in India, with the most recent development being Wipro’s firing of 300 employees for breaching their contracts.
“For companies to say that while you’re working for us, you should not think about a start-up or should not think of consulting for your friends, is doomed to fail exercise,” said Chandrasekhar, who reasoned employers cannot expect to hire someone who is “entrepreneurial” and expect them to only exhibit that characteristic for their employer.
Chinese companies reportedly team to counter US sanctions
Huawei is reportedly linking arms with other chipmakers sanctioned by the US to produce a “US-free” line of products.
State-backed semiconductor factory Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co. (JHICC) is one company reportedly interested in the alliance.
In other news
Our coverage of the APAC region last week included news that a non-executive director for Shanghai-based chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) is the next in a line of “Big Fund” execs under investigation for corruption alleged … or perhaps being caught up in China’s politics.
Pacific Network Corp., its wholly owned subsidiary ComNet (USA) LLC, and China Unicom (Americas) were added to the US’s list of tech and communications equipment suppliers rated a threat to national security. Huawei, ZTE Corporation, radio-comms vendor Hytera, video surveillance systems Hikvision and Dahua, cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, and telecom companies China Mobile and China Telecom were already on the list.
Authorities in Sihanoukville, Cambodia announced on Sunday that a raid uncovered evidence of cyber crime syndicates using forced labor, human trafficking and torture. The victims may have been compelled to make spam phone calls and assist in other cyber crimes. The raid was one of several across the country cracking down on the practice amid international pressure.
Australian telecommunications company Optus said it had fallen victim to a significant cyberattack and data breach. An individual on an underground cybercrime forum is claiming to have stolen account data describing 11.2 million customers. Optus has been roundly criticized for the breach and a confused and inconsistent response.
The Philippines’ Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) extended incentives offered to foreign outsourcers offering working from home to local employees.
Terraform Lab’s Do Kwon said he is not “on the run” after Singapore police issued a statement that he was no longer in the city-state. Kwon is wanted in South Korea for alleged violation of the nation’s capital markets law.
The founder of Beijing-backed commercial launch service provider CAS Space said China will be ready for space tourism by 2025 at a cost of between $280k-$400k per sub-orbital seat. ®