Staying afloat with digital technologies

Danial Norjidi

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Digital Economy Steering Group (DESG) Data Privacy Subgroup (DPS) recently issued a statement on COVID-19.

In it, the member economies of the DPS recognised the importance of data in addressing the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic.

They also highlighted that data is critical to understanding COVID-19, anticipating and controlling its spread, and expediting the discovery and development of safe and effective treatments and vaccines.

“Digital technologies have played a crucial role in facilitating continued business operations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ability to collect, process, and move data across borders, which enables the effective use of digital technologies, has never been more important to the global economy,” said the subgroup.

“At the same time, it is also crucial to promote consumer and business trust by striking the balance between the utilisation of data and the privacy of personal information to draw the full potential of digital technologies in addressing the challenges inflicted by COVID-19.”

“We recognise the need for an accessible, open, interoperable, reliable and secure environment for the use of ICTs as an essential foundation for economic growth and prosperity,” the statement continued.

“As we fight the pandemic, both individually and collectively, we recall the 2020 APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Joint Statement and the Putrajaya Vision 2040, and reaffirm our commitment to the APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap and the APEC Privacy Framework.”

The APEC Data Privacy Subgroup also added, “We recognise the importance of cooperation in APEC to mitigate the health and economic impact caused by COVID-19 and affirm our commitment to supporting each other in harnessing the opportunities of the digital economy and technologies for enhancing economic growth and public good while ensuring appropriate privacy protections.”

The APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap is a framework that provides guidance on key areas and actions to facilitate technological and policy exchanges among member economies and to promote innovative, inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as to bridge the digital divide in the APEC region.

The Roadmap lays out 11 key focus areas of work, namely: development of digital infrastructure; promotion of interoperability; achievement of universal broadband access; development of holistic government policy frameworks for the internet and digital economy; promoting coherence and cooperation of regulatory approaches affecting the Internet and digital economy; promoting innovation and adoption of enabling technologies and services; enhancing trust and security in the use of ICTs; facilitating the free flow of information and data for the development of the internet and digital economy, while respecting applicable domestic laws and regulations; improvement of baseline Internet and digital economy measurements; enhancing inclusiveness of internet and digital economy; and facilitation of E-commerce and advancing cooperation on digital trade.

Meanwhile, the APEC Privacy Framework aims to promote electronic commerce throughout the Asia-Pacific region, is consistent with the core values of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Trans-Border Flows of Personal Data, and reaffirms the value of privacy to individuals and to the information society.

The framework’s foreword states that “APEC member economies realise the enormous potential of the digital economy to continue to expand business opportunities, reduce costs, increase efficiency, improve the quality of life, and facilitate the greater participation of small business in global commerce.”

The foreword highlights that a framework to protect privacy within and beyond economies and to enable regional transfers of personal information benefits consumers, businesses and governments.

It added that “Ministers have endorsed the APEC Privacy Framework, recognising the importance of the development of effective privacy protections that avoid barriers to information flows and ensure continued trade and economic growth in the APEC region.”