GSMA calls for Asian countries to lift barriers on data flow

Corporate September 06, 2018 01:00

By ASINA PORNWNASIN
THE NATION

THE GSM Association (GSMA) is calling on Asian countries to promote cross-border data flows, embrace Asia’s two key privacy frameworks and set up new rules and regulations on cross-border data flows.



In an era where 5G, Internet of Things (IoTs) and artificial intelligence (AI) are part of life, massive amounts of data is created, stored and shared. Hence, rules and regulations are required to protect people’s personal data and privacy especially when data flows across borders. 

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with over 350 companies in a broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies.

In its latest report, “Digital Identities, Advancing Digital Societies in Asia-Pacific”, GSMA says that the key components of a digital society are digital citizens, digital lifestyle and digital commerce, but the two fundamental factors are digital identity and connectivity.

Boris Wojtan, senior director of privacy at GSMA, told the press yesterday that restrictive data flow regulations might affect cross-border investment and have a negative impact on economies. Hence, he said, Asian governments should remove unnecessary regulations and make cross-border data flows smoother and safer. He was speaking at the “Mobile 360- Digital Society” conference in Bangkok.

In another report, titled “Regional Privacy Frameworks and Cross-Border Data Flows: How Asean and Apec can Protect Data and Drive Innovation”, GSMA explains that the Asia-Pacific region has a different level of data protection and privacy laws. For instance, Singapore and Japan have adopted a free data-flow policy, while Thailand does not restrict or encourage data flow. 

“With Thailand becoming the next Asean leader, it will require a data-protection law. Hence, we would encourage Thailand to become a role model in terms of cross-border data flow. This is an important time for all countries to bridge differences in their privacy regulations and become better aligned,” Wojtan said.

He explained that over the past decade, international data flow had boosted the global gross domestic product (GDP) by 10.1 per cent, while barriers have reduced the GDP in some Asian countries by 0.5 to 1.7 per cent. For instance, the Philippines business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, which is built on efficient data flow, rakes in US$25.5 billion (Bt837 billion) annually. Meanwhile, the localisation of data has increased the cost of cloud services by 30 to 60 per cent in Brazil and the EU.

Asia has two main privacy frameworks included the Asean Framework on Personal Data Protection and the Apec Privacy Framework, but Wojtan said they are adopted and implemented differently in each country.

 “There are two key points when we talk about data flow – mainly protecting the consumer and driving innovation. Both the negative and positive impacts of cross-border data flow need to be balanced. The government should have what we call a ‘pro-flow’ policy to encourage data flow and a ‘no-flow’ policy to keep specific data in the country for a period of time,” Wojtan said. 

Free flow of data can stimulate digital economy, enable diversity of culture and help countries fight terrorism, he said.