Composed of many islands and large stretches of ocean, connecting Asean is a challenge but many say it can be done.
The Asean community is a widespread grouping of nations, the distance between Jakarta and Hanoi, for example, is 1900 miles and it is no surprise that the 10 countries are not well connected. The wide range of cultures, customs, languages and religions ensures that. However, with the rise of satellite-enabled broadband communications there is a greater possibility for drawing the Asean member states closer. Dato’ Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim (Malaysia), Ralf Hundertmark (Thailand) and Ms. Ng Yeen Seen (Malaysia) give their views on connecting Asean.
Q: Most of the servers used by Asean web sites are located in the United States. Is it reasonable to expect that one day these servers could or should be in Asean?
Ibrahim: Yes. This is slowly changing as more and more US based companies are building CDNs (content delivery networks) in Asia due to increased traffic in the region, specifically China. Companies such as Amazon and Akamai now have CDNs in Asia Collectively Asean offers significant advantages such as a well educated workforce and home to some of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, contributing 17 percent of Asia’s total output and 20 percent of Asia’s total trade. The region presents a large and fastgrowing market of more than 500 million people. These factors, and its proximity to China, means Asean is well placed to capitalize on this.
Hundertmark: With the continuous growth of Internet users in the region we also see more and more new domains being registered. Currently many of those are hosted at very reasonable prices by international companies, located in the US and Europe.
We also see new hosting companie emerging in Southeast Asia and with the advancement in cloud technologies we see potentially two things happening; First, major hosting providers (1and1,Godaddy, etc.) will push servers into further geographies to ensure the required performance, especially for high bandwidth applications, such as games and the in-game advertisements and second, I am certain that we will see new hosting providers emerge competing with the established players and serving the local markets. Key will be an attractive pricing structure, good quality of service and most importantly Asean IT policies and laws that ensure the sovereignty of the data on the servers.
Seen: Absolutely, I do not see why not. Currently, maybe this is not so feasible, given the wide digital divide the Asean member countries are facing. Some of the countries are far more advanced in terms of ICT infrastructure than the others, and this would cause a lag in efficient connectivity, but steps are being taken to address this. Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia have a robust ICT infrastructure, and with added funds and more extensive research into servers and connectivity, we have the talent and the brains definitely, so I do not see why this should not come true in the near future.
Q: What communications infrastructure needs to be im proved in Asean?Ibrahim: Generally mobile infrastructure has improved significantly in most countries. However, mobile broadband penetration, CONNECTING FAR-FLUNG ASEAN which is a very important tool for socio-advancement, is still relatively poor in Asean countries. Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between Broadband penetration and a country’s economic growth - every 10 percent of broadband penetration leads to 1 percent GDP growth (OECD – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures).
Hundertmark: Most governments in Asean have started broadband initiatives and national IT agendas. It is difficult to keep up with demand, but we see considerable efforts and investments in all type of ICT infrastructure. International Internet Gateways, Metrolans, FTTX deployments, 3G and 4G Telephone networks are all in place or under way and I think the bandwidth question can be compared to memory or hard-disk space on a PC, it seems that it is never enough. In my personal opinion we will see a lot more bandwidth hungry applications, emerging around video as the Internet evolves. When I think about the Web 3.0 or the “Internet of things”, I think it is safe to say we still need a lot more bandwidth both within Asean countries, within the community and throughout the world.
Having said all that, I still would like to mention that I believe the key point for improvement today is to solve the “last mile” issue, which is about providing decent Internet access to all households, including those in rural areas.
Seen: This needs to be tackled on so many different levels.
Crucially I think we tend to miss the small details when looking at only the big picture, in this case, solely at communication architecture.
We need to look at communications infrastructure at the grassroots level, in the rural areas and assess how we can increase the penetration of the internet, phones, and television to these areas, after which we need to see how we can provide training and support to rural populations to help them utilise these services.
There is no point in having all the infrastructure in place if the majority of your population doesn’t have the skills to use it. Along with this, I think the rural-urban digital divide in terms of sheer physical communications hardware needs to be addressed...cities are disproportionately better equipped than far-flung rural villages, and this should be addressed to ensure true, seamless connectivity throughout a country, not just in certain pockets..................
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