Asia Overview
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Asia Overview Asian cyberspace is the setting for a diverse range of information controls, contestations , and resistance. Governments across the region struggle to balance the rapid growth of information communication technologies (ICTs) with their concerns over social stability, national security, and cultural values. These tensions manifest themselves differently according to each state’s context. The region is home to some of the least connected countries, such as Burma, and burgeoning ICT markets such as China and India. The spectrum of information controls across the region varies as well, with some of the world’s strictest regimes of information control on one end and relatively unfettered communication environments on the other. The continued growth of Internet connectivity in Asia, particularly in the mobile realm, has occurred alongside a growth in states’ ability to monitor and control the flow of information. Countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia have seen dramatic increases in connectivity rates and mobile telephone ownership. However, as connectivity grows, so does the legal, regulatory, and technical capacity for states to monitor it. Both democratic and authoritarian states alike have expanded the scope of content that is considered illegal and have increased mechanisms to control it. 226 Asia Overview These have taken the form of centralized filtering mechanisms, increased power for regulators to monitor and censor content, and the prosecution of violators of content dissemination laws. In 2009–2010, the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) conducted in-country testing of Internet filtering in Bangladesh, Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. Testing results remain largely consistent with 2007–2008 findings and show that a spectrum of information filtering continues across Asian countries. Burma, China, and Vietnam maintain the most pervasive regimes of Internet filtering in the region, primarily targeting independent media and content related to politically sensitive issues, human rights, and political reform. On the other end of the spectrum, Singapore continues to symbolically block a limited number of pornography Web sites. Filtering in South Korea and India focuses primarily on content related to national security and conflict issues—with South Korean Internet service providers (ISPs) extensively targeting online content related to North Korea and India targeting topics of Hindu extremism. Pakistan also focuses on blocking issues deemed sensitive to national security such as the Balochi conflict and independence movement, as well as religious content deemed blasphemous. Although previous ONI testing found no evidence of Internet filtering in Indonesia, recent testing revealed that ISPs are substantially filtering online pornography and selectively targeting political, blasphemous, and Internettool -related content. In Thailand filtering primarily concentrates on political content in reaction to sensitive events such as the 2009 political unrest that gripped the country. OpenNet Initiative testing found no evidence of Internet filtering in Bangladesh , Malaysia, or the Philippines. Internet in Asia Asia is home to one of the most connected countries in the world, and some of the least connected. In recent years, the region has seen tremendous growth, with several states identifying ICT growth as an integral part of their socioeconomic development. The mobile sector in particular has grown exponentially—an important development in countries with relatively underdeveloped fixed telecommunications infrastructure. In some countries, fixed infrastructure development has stagnated, eclipsed by the rapid rollout of mobile connectivity. South Korea remains a world leader in Internet connectivity with one of the highest penetration rates and data transfer speeds in the world.1 South Korea has penetration rates exceeding 81 percent2 and an average broadband connection speed of 17 Mbps, the highest in the world and more than double the rate of second-ranked Hong Kong.3 While not as high as South Korea, Malaysia also has a relatively substantial Internet penetration rate of 55.9 percent4 and, like many in the region, a rapidly growing Asia Overview 227 mobile sector. Malaysia’s mobile penetration rate in 2009 was 106 percent, with 21 percent of subscribers using 3G technologies.5 Vietnam has seen strong growth in both fixed and mobile connectivity, with broadband subscription rates growing at more than 40 percent annually6 for the past two years and mobile penetration rates estimated to exceed 140 percent by the end of 2010.7 China remains one of the most significant examples of the growth of the Internet in Asia. Although its penetration rate is relatively modest at 28.9 percent, its total of almost 390 million Internet users in 2009 makes it the largest Internet population in the world.8 Much like its neighbors in...