Governments in Asia can expand the region’s digital economy and unlock further socio-economic benefits for their citizens by removing unnecessary restrictions on the movement of data internationally, according to a new report released by the GSMA today at the Mobile 360 – Digital Societies conference in Bangkok. The study, ‘Regional Privacy Frameworks and Cross-Border Data Flows’, reveals that striking the right balance in the region’s data privacy regulations could significantly enhance economic activity and future innovation in 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).
Over the past decade, international data flows have increased global GDP by 10.1 per cent, and their annual contribution to global GDP has already surpassed US $2.8 trillion1 – a larger share than the global trade in goods. The ability to transfer, store and process data enables commerce, spurs innovation, and drives the development of new technologies, platforms, services and infrastructure.
Although the Asia Pacific region has made good progress in the development of data privacy frameworks that protect consumers while also allowing data to flow across borders, the report highlights that variances in data privacy laws across countries is holding back trade and innovation. The report also calls for better links at a regional level between Asia’s two main privacy frameworks – the ASEAN Framework on Personal Data Protection and the APEC Privacy Framework – to enable cross-border data flows.
“The immense economic opportunities arising from the digital economy and data flows are indisputable,” said Boris Wojtan, Director of Privacy, GSMA. “Working towards a pan-Asian approach to data privacy is critical to protecting the rights of individuals and unlocking this economic potential, not only in Asia, but around the world. Regulating people’s personal information by a patchwork of geographically bound privacy laws will only restrict how Asian companies can innovate and bring better products and services to consumers in the future. Now is an important time for all countries to take actions to bridge the differences in their privacy regulation and achieve greater alignment.”
The study evaluated various regional data privacy frameworks and their key principles, while diving down into individual countries to identify national approaches to privacy regulation. It highlights specific steps that all countries, including less developed states, can take to support greater alignment across Asia. Some of the key recommendations included in the report are:
- APEC and ASEAN governments should consider the options outlined in the study to bridge the differences between their respective privacy frameworks and seek interoperability with other regional frameworks;
- Countries should advance the alignment of national-level privacy regimes by conducting a landscape analysis to see where they stand in terms of data privacy and reviewing the experience of other governments in the region to understand common paths forward;
- Policymakers in government and privacy enforcement authorities should support deeper collaboration and cross-learning across the region; and
- Governments should also draw on non-government privacy experts in the private sector and academia to inform their approaches.
The GSMA also today released its report, ‘Cross-Border Data Flows: Realising Benefits and Removing Barriers’, which describes the benefits of global data flows for individuals, businesses and governments, and explores the damaging impact of increased data localisation measures, which can either require companies to store data locally, or even prohibit companies from transferring personal data altogether. The report calls for governments globally to commit to removing unnecessary localisation measures and enable data to flow cross-border through improved approaches to protecting people’s data.
The ‘Regional Privacy Frameworks and Cross-Border Data Flows’ report is available here in English.
The ‘Cross-Border Data Flows: Realising Benefits and Removing Barriers’ report is available here in English.