By Chandran Nair, Global Institute for Tomorrow
At a recent World Economic Forum in Kuala Lumpur, the opening panel was invited to debate one of the leitmotifs of our age – the way in which technology and digital disruption are reshaping destinies in the Southeast Asian region.
Guided by the anchor of a global media channel, the panelists dutifully paid homage to this new religion and its scriptures. There were no questions about what the region’s biggest challenges are, how we got here in the first place, no questioning of the mindless activities that have sprung from the internet, no alternatives that did not involve “the cloud”.
The only worry about the future they discussed was the threat of cybercrime. They did not ask how many passwords are we going to need to protect our bank accounts and our data from the rewarding world of cybercrime, nor how children could be protected from the effects of on-demand pornography, nor who will buy the things made by robots when there are no more jobs to speak of. Read more
By Chandran Nair, Global Institute for Tomorrow
Last week, Jack Ma called for a new “e-WTO” with the aim of helping small businesses get on the Internet, as the best hope in the fight against poverty. This appeal came after Alibaba’s largest ever “Singles Day” a week earlier, with almost US$14.3bn of merchandise sold in 24 hours. Alibaba’s social media accounts even reported that Premier Li Keqiang called CEO Jack Ma to wish him a successful day. “Singles Day” is now the world’s largest shopping day, dwarfing even the United States’ “Black Friday.”
These are the latest manifestations of a worrying obsession with e-commerce and the Internet in Asia’s largest economies. In March, Beijing announced its new “Internet Plus” plan to expand Internet connectivity. Premier Li, when describing it, brought up the “mobile Internet”, “cloud computing”, “big data”, “intelligent manufacturing” and the “Internet of Things,” in a manner similar to business leaders in America. Nor is this digital obsession restricted to China. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s headquarters received as much, if not more, media attention as his address on sustainable development to the United Nations days earlier. Read more
Ever fancied a holiday from the internet? Complete peace of mind, a world away from the hyperreality of tweets, email, hashtags, likes, blogs and the other trappings of an ICYMI world?
Welcome to China, where, ensconsed behind the Great Firewall, you can relax, maybe shop on Alibaba, send the odd Wechat message, or fight little bug eyed jumping dragon thingies with a Kung Fu laser sword. But that’s it. No Gmail, no YouTube, no Facebook or Twitter. You’re guaranteed a relaxing disconnect from being a beast of online burden.
But it turns out not everyone appreciates the opportunity. Read more
Lee Eun-Seok woke up in the middle of the debris and looked for survivors but it was no use. Seoul had already turned into a huge hive, infested by giant hornets.
So goes the story in Hive, one of the “webtoons” that have become hugely popular in South Korea and which are poised to become the country’s next booming export, according to some bullish forecasts. Read more
From Uber to GrabTaxi, the leading car-for-hire apps are finally coming to Jakarta, where they will find congested roads and congested mobile bandwidth but also a large market of tech-savvy consumers. Read more
Latin America and the Caribbean have some catching up to do in the provision of broadband internet services, according to a score sheet compiled by the Inter-American Development Bank.
Broadband penetration is expected to grow quickly, at a compound annual growth rate of 11.9 per cent in the five years to 2015 across the region, but for now it compares poorly to OECD countries. Read more
President Dilma Rousseff is not known for her fondness of foreign policy. But last year, the US gave her the inspiration she needed to embark on an international crusade when it was revealed that Washington was spying on her phone calls. Furious at this affront, the Brazilian leader called on the United Nations annual general assembly to push for better governance of the internet.
Next week, her ambition of creating an international civil code governing the use of the web will come a step closer to fruition as the world meets in São Paulo to discuss the issue at NETmundial – the “Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance”. Read more
China’s annual National People’s Congress (NPC) has started with an interesting focus on online funds.
Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, and two other central bank officials were cornered by Chinese journalists on the second day of the NPC after some delegates from the financial sector urged stricter supervision of the online funds. Read more
China’s traditional banking sector is leading a counter-attack against the runaway success of online funds launched by internet companies such as Alibaba.
The China Banking Association, with 362 member banks, says deposits made in the funds should not be regulated in the same way as deposits by financial institutions, as at present, but as regular deposits, Chinese media have reported. Read more
Still depositing your money in the bank? In China, you would be laughed at by your friends, who are either buying wealth management products or rushing into the online currency funds offered by the three internet giants – Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu.
In response, the “big five” national banks – Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of Communications – have had to raise savers rates to the upper limit set by the central bank in an attempt to keep their depositors’ money. Read more
By Chris Webster of eBay
Parul Arora always knew her mother had immaculate taste in jewellery – taste so good it appealed to both her younger friends and an older generation at the same time. Together with her mother, she decided to go into business and started selling locally-sourced, handmade jewellery on eBay from their home in New Delhi.
In doing so, Parul tapped into what is evolving to be one of the most virile online marketplaces in the world. The Indian retail environment is going from strength to strength, and not just for local businesses – this is a two-way virtual high street. Read more
Baidu, China’s dominant search engine, started its online financial service on Monday in an attempt to compete with rivals such as Alibaba, who have already pushed aggressively into Chinese financial sector. It wasn’t exactly smooth running.
Baidu’s financial services platform made its debut on October 28, introducing a financial product in conjunction with China Asset Management, which was offering an 8 per cent annual return in its original promotional material. However, the ad fell foul of the financial regulator, and the site was overwhelmed with traffic. The missteps show how much of a rush the big internet companies are to get into online finance. Read more
…soon to be 36th?
Why invest in Russian web companies? Look at the country’s web usage figures, and there are plenty of reasons to be downbeat.
At the most recent international tally in 2012, 47 per cent of Russians had no access to the internet. Internet penetration as a share of the population was the 37th highest in Europe. Bosnia and Herzegovina was more connected than the Russian behemoth. Read more
By Egor Yakovlev of Tvigle Media
The Russian internet’s reputation as a pirate haven is well known and largely deserved. Some simple numbers offer a stark illustration of the scale of the problem. Nearly 6,000 Russian-language websites with illegal content were identified in 2012 (a 58 per cent increase year-on-year) by ICM, a Russian-Ukrainian specialist consultancy; in the video segment, pirated content last year accounted for more than 5bn views a month inside Russia alone. Read more
That'll cost you
A brief reminder from ITU, the UN’s telecoms agency, that for all the talk about the global internet, and how emerging economies are getting online, there is still a huge gap between the developed and developing world when it comes to internet usage.
There are still 4.4bn people not online, according to the ITU’s Measuring the Information Society report. And despite the efforts to get people connected, there are still two huge obstacles. Read more
Now that Alibaba, China’s biggest ecommerce company, has abandoned plans for a $60bn IPO in Hong Kong and is turning instead to the US equities market, a scramble for territory among the Chinese IT triumvirate known as the BAT (for Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) can only intensify. Read more
Russel can make you look very popular: for as little as $15 he can give your fan page on Facebook 1,000 unique ‘likes’ in three or four hours. Russel is a Bangladeshi entrepreneur who featured in an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme into the fraudulent side of internet marketing. What it found was that Russel’s employees were part of a huge ‘cyber reserve army’ at work fraudulently assisting brands to appear popular online.
The ‘fake like’ industry appears to be thriving just as Bangladesh struggles to establish its own orthodox IT sector in the shadow of its giant neighbour, India. Read more
Anyone who has surfed the web in places like Marrakech or Jakarta knows that internet speed in many developing countries leaves much to be desired.
But a report published this week by internet company Akamai shows that a good number of those countries are catching up. Read more
With Chinese regulators still scratching their heads on how to handle shadow banking, there’s a whole new world of internet finance to comprehend, spearheaded by Alibaba, China’s biggest ecommerce group.
Jack Ma, the group’s chairman, has publicly voiced his ambition to create a revolution in financial industry through the internet, and is putting it into practice with several new services. Read more