UNCTAD and ASEAN identify critical issues in harmonizing e-commerce laws

27 December 2012

Senior Southeast Asian officials assessed cyber-legislation and made recommendations for the harmonization of e-commerce laws at a joint ASEAN/UNCTAD workshop held in Cebu, the Philippines, on 10 and 11 November 2012. The outcome was reported to the twelfth ASEAN Telecommunications Senior Officials’ Meeting (TELSOM).  ​

The rapid uptake of new technologies, such as mobile money and cloud computing, is expanding opportunities and at the same time raising new challenges for governments and businesses wishing to leverage information and communication technologies (ICTs). Seizing their full potential requires that adequate attention be paid to the legal and regulatory framework governing the related transactions. In order to boost e-commerce and e-government, users need to be able to trust that their data is secure and their transactions are protected. This was the subject of discussion for senior government officials attending a joint ASEAN/UNCTAD workshop held in Cebu, the Philippines, which aimed at reviewing and harmonizing cyberlaws to promote e-commerce in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

UNCTAD and ASEAN identify critical issues in harmonizing e-commerce laws
Participants of the ASEAN/UNCTAD workshop

"I cannot stress enough the importance of holding this event, as it is very much in line with our objective for a united ASEAN community by 2015", said Mr. Louis Napoleon Casambre, Undersecretary of the Department of Science and Technology of the Philippines, who provided the opening statement for the workshop. "We have identified the challenges we need to overcome, and looked at the emerging technologies that have the potential to significantly affect electronic commerce in the near future."

The workshop was attended by more than twenty senior officials from the ten ASEAN Member States and from UN agencies such as the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), who discussed advances and challenges in adopting and enforcing e-commerce legislation, as well as new legal and regulatory issues arising from evolving technologies and applications. The workshop produced a set of tentative conclusions and recommendations identifying and highlighting crucial cyber issues in the region related to e-government, electronic transaction laws, consumer protection, data protection and privacy, cloud computing, e-payment, e-services, cybercrime, spam, ICT capacity-building and awareness-raising, and cross-border cyber issues.

The outcome of the workshop was reported to the ASEAN Telecommunications Senior Officials' Meeting (TELSOM) which took place from 12 to 16 November in Cebu. The workshop was part of a multi-phase process to carry out a comprehensive ASEAN/UNCTAD Joint Review of E-Commerce Laws Harmonization. It was the first of two consultative meetings to be organized during 2012 and 2013 as part of the Review.

The recommendations from the Joint Review currently in progress will be presented at the next TELSOM Joint Working Group meeting in March 2013.

The workshop was organized in collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat by the E-Commerce and Law Reform Programme housed in the ICT Analysis Section of UNCTAD's Division on Technology and Logistics, and financially supported by the Government of Finland.