23 Aug, Nha Trang 
29-31 Aug, Kathmandu
5-6 Sep, Iskandar Puteri
5-6 Sep, Melbourne 
5-12 Sep, Chiang Mai
6 Sep, Hong Kong
11-12 Sep, Singapore 
14-15 Sep, Hong Kong
17-18 Sep, Yangon
17-19 Sep, Karachi
23-25 Sep, Macau 
24-26 Sep, Kuala Lumpur 
29 Sep - 2 Oct, Singapore
3-4 Oct, Wellington
4 Oct, Ulaanbaatar 
7-9 Oct, Melbourne
13-18 Oct, Seoul
20-22 Oct, Wuzhen 
28 Oct, Sydney 
2-7 Nov, Montréal
6-7 Nov, Kuala Lumpur
IETF 106
16-22 Nov, Singapore
20-21 Nov, Singapore 
Internet Week 2019
25-28 Nov, Japan
2-4 Dec, Hong Kong
5-6 Dec, Taipei
13-21 Feb, Melbourne
7-12 Mar, CancĂșn
21-27 Mar, Vancouver
22-25 Jun, Kuala Lumpur

25-31 Jul, Madrid

14-20 Nov, Bangkok 
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This is a monthly e-newsletter published by the Internet Society's Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau. It has updates on the Bureau's activities and features insights on the transforming Internet landscape in and around the Asia-Pacific region.

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The Case for Complementary Local Access Networks by the Community, for the Community
A collage of photos from W4C India
Back in 2010, I conceptualised and started a pilot project to see how we could introduce Internet connectivity to unserved and underserved rural areas. The ICT4D community - along with a number of international organisations - had been talking about how getting people online could transform lives, but most of the solutions appeared to be either top-down or boiler-plated.

My idea was simple - work together with a local partner to find a rural location where getting people online could make a difference, ensure people from the community were trained to operate and maintain the network (rather than being dependent on outsiders), use cheap easy-to-find WiFi equipment (so if things break down, the nearest town would have spares), and then train the community, empowering them to create and use various digital services. Essentially, this was a network for the people, by the people.

Thus was born our award-winning Wireless For Communities (W4C) initiative. We have had a tremendous amount of success with the programme - having deployed and inspired literally hundreds of networks in South Asia and helped connect the most marginalised of communities. This has also become a global programme for the Internet Society - what is now our Community Networks initiative - with deployments in all corners of the world.

Having a network is one thing but knowing what to do with it is quite another. This is why with our projects in the Asia-Pacific the emphasis has always been on how the community can use the applications and services the Internet enables so that they can improve their socio-economic conditions.

Some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And indeed, since our early work some 10 years ago, many others (including donor agencies) have got involved to support this form of complementary local access networks, and I take great satisfaction in seeing how that has developed over time.

Next week, together with our partner UN ESCAP, we will host the Asia-Pacific Community Networks Summit as part of the Third Session of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS) Steering Committee Meeting.

This special summit will bring together various stakeholders to share their experiences and knowledge on community networks and explore how we can help improve the lives of people from our region. This work is in support of the AP-IS, a region-wide initiative endorsed by UN ESCAP member states, and in particular, the "Broadband for All" pillar of  the AP-IS that looks into ways of promoting affordable access to underserved areas.

For me, it's especially pleasing to see how something that started as a small pilot project 10 years ago has been able to connect the unconnected - and opened up a myriad of opportunities for socio-economic development for people all across the globe.

Regional Bureau Director, Asia-Pacific
Voices from the Pacific at APrIGF
by Maureen Hilyard, Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society   

The Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) was held on 16-19 July 2019 at the recently constructed Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island in Vladivostok, Russia. The theme of this year's event was " Enabling a Safe, Secure and Universal Internet for All in Asia Pacific", with 22 sessions covering six sub-themes - (1) safer Internet, cybersecurity and regulation; (2) access and universality; (3) emerging technologies and society; (4) human rights online; (5) evolving role of Internet governance (IG) and multistakeholder participation; and (6) digital economy.

Photo of James Ahwai_ Maureen Hilyard and Anju Mangal at APrIGF
From left to right: James Ahwai, Maureen Hilyard and Anju Mangal from PICISOC

The Board of the Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC) was represented by Anju Mangal from Fiji, James Ahwai from Samoa, and myself from the Cook Islands. James Ahwai, a newcomer to the IG scene, participated as a panellist in the opening plenary on The State of Play and Outlook for IG in the Asia Pacific and contributed a Pacific perspective. Anju Mangal, a former member of the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group, moderated the closing plenary on APrIGF Multistakeholder Participation in the Global IGF.

I led a workshop, which was a follow-up to a session on "e-Government for Empowering Pacific Citizens" introduced at the APrIGF in Vanuatu last year. This year, PICISOC Board member, Cherie Lagakali (a participant in the 2018 event and this time attending remotely) provided an excellent overview of Fiji's new e-government website that has been developed with support from the Singaporean government. At the workshop, Anju Mangal also reported on the e-Government Roundtable entitled "The Future of Digital Government for Sustainable Development" which she attended in the Republic of Korea in June with Fellow PICISOC Board member Andrew Molivurae. PICISOC and participants of the workshop discussed and articulated the needs of the Pacific and the many challenges that governments of small island developing states face. They include: challenges with connectivity and bandwidth, affordability of broadband, inadequate legal and regulatory frameworks, shortage of requisite human capacity, failure to use local language and content, and lack of entrepreneurship and a business culture that is open to change. With these issues to contend with, small island states in the Pacific have not been able to reap the benefits of digital development.

I also participated as a panellist in the Plenary Session on Digital Accessibility moderated by Rajnesh D. Singh. For me, one key takeaway from this session was the role of governments and the budget priority they should give to accessibility issues, including universal acceptance. There needs to be more across-the-board awareness and education about accessibility issues, for building codes, as well as online, and governments have an important facilitating and catalysing role in implementing accessibility requirements. This is more so in developing countries where national budgets are usually assigned to other priorities - in the Pacific, for example, the cost of technology development is a major inhibiting factor.

PICISOC will produce a report on the sessions that the members participated in to the Dynamic Coalition on Small Island States in the Internet Economy as input to the global Internet Governance Forum that will be held in November 2019.

One of the unique features of the APrIGF is a Synthesis Document that is produced by a Drafting Committee of volunteers. Each day at the event, a Town Hall session was held where participants offered important takeaways from sessions they participated in during the day. These contributions were collated into a document under the six sub-themes of the forum, which becomes a summary of the hot topics, views and perspectives from this event. When participants attend other similar events, they can reference the document as the views of those who attended this year's APrIGF event.

Contributing to the success of this event were the great communications teams who were on hand in each of the session rooms. The state-of-the-art equipment at the university ensured quality sessions with clear inputs by every participant (both remotely and in the room). Real-time transcription as well as multiple screens were available - the sort of thing we can only wish for in the Pacific. But it certainly raised the benchmark and ensured that we had a great event. Many thanks to Mikhail, Leonid and the Russian APrIGF Team for a great event and a great gala as well.

Next year's APrIGF will be held in Nepal.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Internet Society.

Collage of workshop at APrIGF

Corrigendum: In the Guest Article of the July 2019 issue of APAC Connections, the start of the second paragraph should read: "The conference held on 1 July was inaugurated by Arnold Nipper of DE-CiX, David Huberman of ICANN, Rajesh Chharia of ISPAI, Ramesh Chandra of Reliance Jio, Shailesh Gupta of Tata Communications, Srinivas Chendi of APNIC, and Anurag Bhatia of Hurricane Electric."
The Sri Lanka Chapter Tackles Internet Restrictions and Cybersecurity Threats
by Mahee Kirindigoda, Executive President, Internet Society Sri Lanka Chapter     

Photo of Mahee Kirindigoda Since its establishment nine years ago, the Internet Society Sri Lanka Chapter has been a key stakeholder in ensuring a free, open and safe Internet in Sri Lanka.

During the 2018 religious riots and the 2019 Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, when access to social media networks and messaging services was blocked, the Sri Lanka Chapter worked closely with government, media, academia, the private sector and the general public to inform them about the impact of such restrictions on the Internet. In the aftermath of the 2018 religious riots, the Sri Lanka Chapter issued an appeal letter to the Presidential Secretariat on behalf of Internet Society members in Sri Lanka, to lift the social media ban. Earlier this year, after the Easter bombings, the Sri Lanka Chapter organised an online meeting to engage in dialogue with different groups, including government and media agencies, informing them about the wide-ranging economic and social consequences of Internet restrictions, and raising the awareness that preventing online access is rarely an effective solution to conflicts and unrest.

In the attempt to control the spread of misinformation and hate speech, and cut off communications between organisers of attacks, the Internet restrictions also prevented people from connecting with their families and friends, and from accessing emergency aid in the aftermath of violence. Facebook-based volunteer groups and civil society organisations were not able to reach those in need of assistance and disseminate validated content. Businesses that relied on connectivity for sales and marketing were also negatively affected and suffered huge losses. The estimated economic cost of the partial Internet shutdown in Sri Lanka during 7-15 March 2018 was USD30 million.

Technical measures to restrict Internet access are rarely appropriate tools to fix social and political issues. Instead, dialogue, transparency, due judicial process and openness should be the first steps to find solutions to complex issues, in a way that is inclusive of all stakeholders.

In May this year, the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology and the Computer Emergency Readiness Team and Co-ordination Centre (CERT|CC) invited the public to comment on a proposed Cybersecurity Bill - the first-ever draft bill released for public comment in Sri Lanka.

The objectives of the proposed Cybersecurity Bill are to:

  • Ensure the effective implementation of the National Cybersecurity Strategy in Sri Lanka;
  • Prevent, mitigate and respond to cybersecurity threats and incidents effectively and efficiently;
  • Establish the Cybersecurity Agency of Sri Lanka to strengthen the institutional framework for cybersecurity; and
  • Protect the critical information infrastructure.

The Sri Lanka Chapter was invited by the Minister of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology to review the draft Bill together with other stakeholders, including the Information and Communication Technology Agency and the Computer Society of Sri Lanka.

At the onset of the draft Bill's release, the Sri Lanka Chapter requested for: (1) an extension on the deadline for submission of comments to allow a thorough consultation process with different stakeholders; (2) translation of the draft Bill into local languages; and (3) creation of a multistakeholder community to review the draft Bill.

The Sri Lanka Chapter worked closely with the Ministry and CERT|CC to raise public awareness about the Cybersecurity Bill, and coordinate and collate public comments from individuals, organisations, policymakers and political parties through a number of online and face-to-face meetings. During this process of consultation and discussion, we recognised a lack of technical policy experts available.

Nevertheless, the comments submitted by the Sri Lanka Chapter were taken positively. The main comments were related to the need to clearly define what constitutes "critical information infrastructure", and the need to reconsider the establishment of multiple agencies responsible for cybersecurity to avoid function overlaps and inefficiencies in responding to cyberthreats. Minimising the number of agencies was recommended. A review procedure for the role of the Cybersecurity Agency and civil organisation representation in the Cybersecurity Agency were also recommended.

On behalf of the Sri Lanka Chapter, I would like to express my gratitude to Internet Society members in Sri Lanka and globally for supporting us in these activities. We would also like to thank the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology and the Honourable Minister for making the proposed Cybersecurity Bill available for public comment. We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our commitment to continue safeguarding the free, open and inclusive Internet for all.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Internet Society.
Chinese Regulators Wonder if Apps are Collecting Too Much Data
Chinese apps and tech giants are coming under scrutiny now that regulators in China are listening to public's rising concerns over data privacy, as many users take to social media to voice their grievances. Authorities have been quick to take down a number of apps including Xiaohongshu and NetEase Music recently, as a result of privacy and other concerns.

The Office of the Vanuatu Telecommunications, Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Regulator (TRBR) appointed Neustar Vanuatu Limited as the new registry operator for the .vu country code top-level domain (ccTLD). Neustar will support TRBR in increasing .vu domain name registrations through enhanced promotions, technical innovation and security.

Compared to other ASEAN countries, Malaysia is seeing a huge success rate in business returns as they apply digital transformation initiatives towards business practices and break away from the company silo effect.

Of the 196 Internet shutdowns documented across the world in 2018, India was responsible for the majority (67%) incidents, according to a report released by Access Now.

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