Global Internet Policy Round-up: August 2017

This month, we’ve summarized relevant occurrences from around the world related to internet policymaking in the IPO’s ‘Internet Policy Roundup’. In  our August roundup, read about journalists and politicians in Thailand who have been charged for facebook comments, a new popular app in Saudi Arabia that is providing a controversial space for anonymous feedback, China’s new cyber courts,  internet shutdowns in Ethiopia, and a court case against Google in Canada that could have significant effects of freedom of information around the world. These and other story summaries in the roundup here.

 

Shots in the dark: An analysis of Internet Governance in Pakistan

//Jahanzaib Haque, current Chief Digital Strategist for the Dawn Media Group, comments on Internet governance in Pakistan including the proposed Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill.

Pakistan is among the five least connected countries in the world, according to a 2016 World Bank development report titled ‘Digital Dividends.’[1] Eighty-three per cent of the population of 200 million was found to be offline. The Freedom of the Net report released annually by Freedom House found a host of factors holding Pakistan back.[2] The report stated that, “Low literacy, difficult economic conditions, and cultural resistance have limited the proliferation of ICTs in Pakistan…most remote areas lack broadband, and a large number of users depend on slow dial-up connections or EDGE, an early mobile internet technology.”

While internet penetration is low, the introduction of 3G/4G mobile networks in 2014[3] has greatly impacted accessibility and speed of adoption. With 3G/4G subscribers climbing to 26.1 million as of February 2016, and total teledensity at 68.54% in the country, the internet is accessible to citizens far beyond the urban areas where it was confined up to 2014.[4] The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) report showed that mobile phone ownership stood at 94.7% in urban areas and 83% in rural areas, promising far greater opportunities for online access.[5] Growth in internet use is likely to be very rapid over the next few years, closing the wide gap between the haves and the have-nots that…

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Myanmar Connected? Internet Governance Capacity Building in Post-Authoritarian Contexts

//IPO Affiliate Andrea Calderaro explains the implications of Myanmar’s massive Internet expansion by looking at both infrastructure and legislation

Almost 3 years have passed since the government of Myanmar initiated its connectivity building plan, in the context of an unprecedented period of political reforms. As detailed in the recently published paper, Digitalizing Myanmar: Connectivity Developments in Political Transitions, Myanmar is currently witnessing an extremely rapid process of constructing connectivity – both from an infrastructural and policy perspective. Just before the launch of this ambitious process, only 0.98% of the population was connected to the Internet, and 2.3% had a mobile phone, usable only via weak mobile infrastructure limited to the main urban areas (2011 figures).

Moreover, in a country that has until recently demonstrated continued lack of respect for the freedom of expression, the construction of connectivity infrastructure has raised concerns about the respect for human rights, notably the freedom of expression and right to privacy. In this context, it is of particular interest to scrutinize the development of the regulatory and policy framework aimed at securing basic digital rights in the connectivity sector.

Today, a network of mobile towers is widely spread over the country, and newly established international operators have launched new services, counting more than 20 million mobile subscribers and securing mobile internet connectivity to 30% of the population. This tremendous growth within such a limited time frame suggests that Myanmar is the country with the fastest connectivity building process ever seen worldwide. However, a lot of work has yet to be done from a regulatory and policy perspective.

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The Data Localization Paradox

//Tatevik Sargsyan, a doctoral candidate at the School of Communication at American University, explores the economic and trade implications of data localization on governments and citizens. In lieu of the recent ‘Safe Harbor’ agreement, Sargsyan considers localization within the contexts of human rights and commercial exchange. 

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decision to invalidate the Safe Harbor agreement on October 6, 2015, and the subsequent legal uncertainty surrounding data transfer between the United States and European Union (EU), have sparked conversations about data localization. As the US and EU negotiate a new transatlantic data transfer regime and internet companies consider moving data to Europe, it is worth reflecting on the potential consequences of data localization.  

Most commonly, “data localization” refers to legal restrictions on data location and export, which mandate online service providers to physically locate servers containing data belonging to a country’s residents within that country’s jurisdiction, and/or ban the export and processing of data elsewhere. China, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea, Russia, Canada, and Australia are among the many countries where such restrictions exist or are being considered.

The 2013 revelations about the US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance PRISM program have particularly pushed countries to turn to data localization as a reasonable solution to privacy and security concerns related to intrusive foreign intelligence. This is the rationale behind German authorities’ proposal to store Europeans’ data on servers inside EU. This is also the claim that Russian authorities used to enforce the Data Localization Law on September 1st of this year.

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