SINGAPORE – Countries must work together to develop common global rules, norms and standards so online interactions between societies can be stable, secure and consistent, Chief Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Tuesday (May 31).
This will mean that “consumers and businesses will benefit from lower compliance costs, easier market access and better and more affordable services,” said Teo, who is also the coordinating minister for security. national.
This amid fears the digital world will fragment if countries set their own rules or coalesce into different blocs, as they seek stronger data usage protections and greater oversight of digital services. .
Mr Teo was speaking virtually from Hong Kong, at a Gardens by the Bay dinner held in conjunction with the Asia Tech x Singapore Summit organized by the Infocomm Media Development Authority.
Mr. Teo is in Hong Kong for a work trip.
Even if big countries fail to reach consensus on the rules, small states can still act, he said. For example, like-minded countries can work together on digital economy agreements that align digital rules and standards.
“These will facilitate greater interoperability with protocols, gateways and bridges between digital systems for cross-border digital commerce and data flows,” he said.
In Singapore’s case, it has four digital economy agreements with Australia, Chile, South Korea, New Zealand and Britain.
“Achieving global consensus will not be easy, but we must take steps to get there,” Teo said. “Singapore supports the creation of such a multilateral order in cyberspace. We will work with all stakeholders in this endeavour.”
For example, the Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations in New York, Mr. Burhan Gafoor, was elected chair of the five-year open-ended task force on security and the use of infocomm technology.
Singapore is also one of the first 13 countries to voice support for a new US-led Asia-Pacific trade initiative called the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, which US President Joe Biden launched on May 23.
The initiative aims to establish common standards in areas such as supply chain resilience and clean energy.
Communications and Information Minister Josephine Teo said on Tuesday that Singapore is confident that “this continued US engagement in our part of the world is a positive development, and we certainly hope to build on its initial ideas to develop it further.
She said Singapore appreciates that the framework remains open, inclusive and flexible.
“If we can build on these as building blocks and founding principles of (the framework), then I think its potential is very commendable, very huge,” Ms Teo said, during a dialogue with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo at the Asia Tech x Singapore Summit. The event took place at the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore.
To navigate the digital environment, especially by setting rules, Ms. Teo said, international agreements are a good start and give companies more certainty.
“(Companies) need to know what the boundaries are within which they have to operate. And without some set of common standards…it’s quite difficult,” Ms Teo said.
“If we don’t make a conscious and deliberate effort internationally to achieve some standardization of rules…then, I think over time, the potential for growth and innovation will also be hampered.”
There are also concerns that the online platforms of big tech companies – including Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft – have a huge influence on what consumers see and buy, as well as what information and news they receive. get.
Chief Minister Teo cited the example of extreme views which may find greater traction than moderate views and may affect “social cohesion and the search for consensus as society becomes increasingly polarized within of its own echo chambers”.
“The solution is to work with, not against Big Tech,” he said. “Governments also need to work with Big Tech to design governance principles and rules that reflect this new alignment of power and achieve a better balance.”
New methods and standards for maintaining the security and resilience of digital systems must also be developed by governments and industry players.
This will encourage consumers and businesses to be more willing and ready to reap the benefits of new technological innovations, and to trust that they will be safe and that their privacy will be respected and protected, Teo said.
“The digital world has become so vast and pervasive that we now need to have this conversation between governments, businesses and consumers to assess whether our policies are still fit for purpose and how best to achieve our collective vision to create a more integrated, open and secure digital world,” he said.