SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said ASEAN should boost its cooperation in information and communications technology (ICT) to enhance regional integration and create new opportunities for its economies.
Speaking at the 13th ASEAN Telecommunications and Information Technology Ministers Meeting (TELMIN) on Thursday, Mr Lee shared three ideas on how to do this.
He suggested strengthening the resilience of submarine communications cable systems.
He said the systems are the backbone of the global communications network and the Internet, but they are vulnerable to damage, due to anchoring, fishing activities and natural disasters.
Another way to boost ICT cooperation in the regional grouping is to harmonise 700MHz band for mobile broadband services.
The benefits of doing so include reducing potential radio frequency interference between neighbouring countries and improving regional mobile roaming and quality of mobile broadband services.
Mr Lee also suggested a transition from analogue to digital television broadcasts.
“Television has and will remain an important source of entertainment and news,” he said.
And by doing so, the transition will give viewers higher quality images and a more interactive viewing experience.
It will also free up scarce spectrum capacity for other services like wireless broadband.
ICT has increasingly become a part of everyday life for many people in recent years.
“Many of us enjoy Twitter. In fact, we enjoy TGIF – Twitter, Google, Instagram, Facebook,” said Mr Lee.
But this has also brought new challenges, especially in terms of cybersecurity.
“You just watch the events in the past fortnight, when hackers compromised websites in Thailand, Philippines, Singapore and before that, Malaysia and Indonesia. I don’t think any country has been spared,” he said.
Prime Minister Lee also referred to the recent arrests in Singapore involving hacking and perpetrating the act. He said the courts will deal with the culprits to the full extent of the law.
Mr Lee urged citizens to speak up against hacking and those who support or encourage the perpetrators, stressing that hacking incidents cannot be condoned.
He said: “We must not condone such malicious and harmful behaviour. It is not a prank when someone hacks websites and intrudes into computer systems. It is in fact, a criminal act.
“At a minimum, it inconveniences the public, but potentially, it has much graver consequence — damage to infrastructure and danger to lives, for example, if the computer systems hacked control the electricity grid, or are a hospital management system or banking system.”
But Mr Lee also said that despite these challenges, ICT is able to bring many other benefits.
Global spending on this sector is set to increase by 4 per cent annually to over 4 trillion US dollars by 2015.
A recent example was the widespread use of social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
This year’s TELMIN meeting coincides with the half-way mark of the ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2015, or AIM2015. It was launched in 2011 and aims to make ICT a key enabler of ASEAN’s social and economic integration.
“I’m pleased to report that we have made good progress. About two-thirds of the AIM2015 have been completed, with the masterplan well on track for completion by 2015,” said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information.
This is the second time Singapore is hosting TELMIN, with 2003 being its first.
The two-day meeting will be attended by some 200 ministers, delegates and dialogue partners from ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea.
Some of the topics set to be discussed are people engagement, empowerment, innovation, infrastructure development, human capital development and digital inclusion efforts.