The past year can perhaps best be described as action-packed for the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau Team. 2015 saw the Asia-Pacific Bureau advance its initiatives on all fronts with enhanced outreach and engagement across stakeholders in the region.
In view of the efforts around the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, we released a major report in March that looked at the potential of the Internet for ASEAN economies, and what they need to do to transition to a digital economy. We also held a series of roundtables in Southeast Asia to discuss the digital economy and the findings of the report, as well as focus on country specific issues.
Working with our chapters around the region, we organised four Asia Internet Symposiums, two highly successful regional INETs, and three interactive nodes in the region (Bangalore, India, Hong Kong, Manila, Philippines) —in addition to the global hub in Auckland —for the first ISOC InterCommunity global meeting. We also had active remote participation from across the region with viewing nodes in a number of countries including Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
The APAC Bureau has constantly endeavored to expand the scope of our engagement in the region, and last year was no different. In addition to our annual APAC Regional Policy Survey, we polled Internet users in 37 economies on their mobile Internet usage habits, the results of which will be released in early 2016.
We also finalised a regional study covering 10 countries in South Asia, Central Asia and the Caucuses that looks at the potential of the Internet and some of the barriers and challenges to transition to a digital economy. This report, a joint effort between ISOC, UN ESCAP and ADB, also indicates our increased collaboration and engagement efforts in the region. We held an event in November in Pakistan to discuss the early findings of the report, as well as the opportunities for Pakistan. The full report will be released early 2016.
Our award-winning Wireless for Communities project was also expanded to two new countries in South Asia – Nepal and Pakistan – as well as additional locations in rural India. We continue to look for new partners who can contribute resources to further expand this programme, which provides a holistic approach to the local community’s socio-economic empowerment using the Internet and ICTs.
To cap off an eventful year, we launched a highly competitive, five-week moderated e-learning course on Internet governance for individuals from developing economies in the region. We received around 500 applications for the 120 seats available, and this indicates great interest from the region on these issues.
All these activities were conducted alongside our ongoing commitment to building local awareness and expertise, through sustained assistance for network operators groups, development of neutral IXPs, and through involvement in regional policy fora such as the APT and APEC TEL on areas such as local content creation, online security and the Internet of Things. We also increased our level of engagement with APT, UN ESCAP, the ITU Asia-Pacific office and other regional entities. The higher level of cooperation and collaboration is a positive for our collective efforts in the region as a whole.
We also lent stronger support for local and national stakeholders to find solutions to topical issues in the region: these include, for example, the gender digital divide in the Philippines, and Internet/web accessibility for persons with disabilities in Pakistan.
We aim to carry these over to the year ahead. Our annual regional policy survey will go out in February and we hope you can help us disseminate that to gain as wide an input as possible from the region. In March 2016 our regional INET in Kathmandu will tackle the role of ICTs in disaster management, in the context of Nepal’s recovery from last year’s devastating earthquake.
We are also planning to conduct follow-up workshops on special needs access to the Internet in Pakistan, and to roll out our IETF extension programme to three countries in Southeast Asia—and all the above will happen in just the next couple of months!
Looking further ahead we plan four Asia Internet Symposiums through the year, supporting the regional IGF in Taipei in July, and the 97th meeting of the IETF in Seoul, Korea mid-November. As a follow-up to our highly successful INET Islamabad in late 2015, we are collaborating with other partners on an event on the Digital Economy in Pakistan for Q4 as well.
We will keep you posted as we have further details for these and other activities in the months ahead. To keep up-to-date with where we are, and what we are doing, please follow us on Twitter @ISOCapac and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.
We are also pleased to present our ‘2015: The Year That Was Report’ which provides a snapshot of what we did over the course of 2015. The report can bedownloaded here.
On behalf of the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Team, we wish you and yours a fulfilling and prosperous year in 2016. We look forward to working with you to ensure the continued success of the Internet and all that it enables!