Asean nations intensify focus on cybersecurity, data protection

Asean nations intensify focus on cybersecurity, data protection
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BORACAY, Philippines (Feb 7): Data protection, anti-scamming and cybersecurity are among issues given priority as senior officials from Asean countries convene in Boracay Island, laying the groundwork for reshaping the region’s post-Covid-19 digital landscape.

Undersecretary of International Division of the Ministry of Communications and Digital, Mano Verabathran said enhancing cybersecurity cooperation and anti-scamming measures are essential requirements to secure Asean’s economy and digitalisation initiatives, especially in view of more sophisticated attacks and threats. 

“Thailand raised the issue of anti-scamming as something very important and pressing now, which has to be discussed and mentioned during ministers’ meeting. 

“In the digital economy, we have all the data. We need to protect the data and get all the necessary security measures laid out to do cross-border business and flourish,” Mano told Bernama on the sideline of the 3rd Asean Digital Senior Officials’ Meeting (ADGSOM) here. 

Malaysia’s delegation to ADGSOM is led by the Ministry of Communications and Digital’s secretary-general Datuk Seri Mohammad Mentek. The meeting also includes bilateral meetings and sessions with dialogue partners.

Mano added that during the Joint Working Group meeting on Monday (Feb 6), Asean members agreed that all respective ministers will come up with a statement specific on these issues, on top of declarations and joint statements that had been drafted to demonstrate the importance of cybersecurity and data protection matters.

Collectively, Asean needs to ensure there are no weak links in the effort to secure cyberspace for the region’s digital economy, as member countries prepare to emerge as a competitive digital economic bloc.

As for Malaysia, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil earlier noted that data and cybersecurity would be the ministry’s main focus this year. 

In relation to this, Malaysia and Singapore kickstarted the effort by renewing cooperation in the field of personal data protection, cybersecurity and digital economy with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Jan 30.  The next move is with the rest of the Asean region.

Fahmi is scheduled to arrive in Boracay on Wednesday (Feb 8) to attend the Asean Digital Ministers’ Meeting (ADGMIN).

There are an estimated 400 million internet users in the region, home to a vibrant population of 622 million and a booming economy, projected to be the fourth largest in the world by 2030, with digital economy expected to be a key driver of growth.

Meanwhile, the ADGSOM also reviewed the implementation progress of the approved projects for the 2022 Work Cycle Projects, especially on the status and outcomes. 

Among the projects were a guide on artificial intelligence governance and ethics (Singapore), capacity building to bridge the digital divide (Indonesia), green digital initiatives (Philippines), regulatory best practices (Malaysia), and the establishment of the standard to exchange data and information related to disasters in the Asean region (Laos).

The Philippines is currently hosting the annual 3rd ADGMIN, ADGSOM and related meetings with dialogue partners from Feb 6 to 10. This would be the first physical meeting for the ADGMIN and ADGSOM leaders since the Covid-19 pandemic.