With over 4 billion people online 1, the internet has reshaped how we do business, communicate and conduct governance 2. As the digital economy evolves, digital security has taken on a distinct urgency. Governments face a complex array of cyber-security threats with the potential to significantly damage economic growth and infrastructure critical to essential services 3. This is especially true for countries in Asia, where unlike the West, internet expansion has risen amidst the internet revolution 4. Keen to leverage the benefits of the digital economy while preserving national security in a post-internet world, Asian states tend to adopt policies that are protectionist and less aligned with international standards 5.
Bangladesh leads the world in percentage of mobile malware İnfections 6 while Sri Lanka 7 and Nepal 8 have experienced a sharp rise in the number of cyber-security attacks Therefore, with the aim to address these vulnerabilities, Bangladesh passed the "Digital Security Act, 2018" 9 ("Digital Security Act"), while Sri Lanka has presented a "Cyber Security Bill" 10 ("Cyber Security Bill"), and a "Framework for Proposed Data Protection Bill" 11 ("Data Protection Bill"). Nepal recently enacted the "Individual Privacy Act, 2018" 12 ("Privacy Act") and formulated the "Information Technology Bill, 2075" ("IT Bill") 13. While each bill/act proposes to address concerns with digital security, they are still located within a broader IT regulatory ecosystem. The following paragraphs will briefly outline the regulatory framework within each country:
Bangladesh is home to 87 million internet subscribers, accounting for approximately 53% of its entire population48 . In 2016, Bangladesh was ranked 112 out of 139 nations on a Network Readiness Index according to a World Economic Forum report49 , while also performing poorly in the Global Cybersecurity Index in 201550 . The contemporaneous legal framework, i.e. the Information Communication Technology Act of 200651 , was largely held to be insufficient in terms of addressing digital security and data protection concerns52 . Consequently, Bangladesh has taken steps to improve its digital security framework through its e-governance project53 and "Digital Bangladesh"54 vision. Further, the government formulated a National Cybersecurity Strategy55 , charting a vision for cyber-security till 2021.
Bangladesh enacted the Digital Security Act56 in September 2018. Passed with the objective of curbing cyber-crime and ensuring digital security, the Digital Security Act creates a wide range of cyber-crime offences57 . These provide punishment for "propaganda or campaign against the Liberation War, the Father of the Nation"58 , posting offensive content59 , cyber-terrorism60 and defamation61 , amongst others. Significantly, it has extra-territorial application62 . It also establishes a "Digital Security Agency"63 , empowered to regulate content and request the Bangladesh telecom regulator remove/block the same64 .
Significantly, the Digital Security Act provides safe harbour protection for intermediaries 65, and penalizes illegal use of "identity information" 66.
As South Asia becomes increasingly digitized, vital questions around the security of information arise. While each country has recognized the need for a robust digital security framework, problems are still abound. Larger issues stem from freedom of speech and surveillance concerns 67, and issues pertaining to strict regulation have also been raised by industry 68.
The next post in this series will delve further into the challenges faced by each regulatory regime. Additionally, it will attempt to chart a path that may negotiate these challenges, and provide recommendations for the same.
(This post has been authored by Vijayant Singh, Associate, with inputs from Nimisha Dutta, Counsel at Ikigai law)
1 Simon Kemp, digital in 2018: World's internet users pass the 4 billion mark, available at https://wearesocial.com/blog/2018/01/global-digital-report-2018.
2 Anmar Frangoul, 10 ways the web and internet have transformed our lives, CNBC, available at https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/09/10-ways-the-web-and-internet-have-transformed-our-lives.html.
3 Victoria A. Espinel, Cybersecurity threats defy national borders, so countries should collaborate, not clam up, South China Morning Post, available at https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2144126/cybersecurity-threats-defy-national-borders-so-countries.
4 Centre for Long Term Cybersecurity, Asian Cybersecurity Features, available at https://cltc.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/asianfutures.pdf.
5 Victoria A. Espinel, Cybersecurity threats defy national borders, so countries should collaborate, not clam up, South China Morning Post.
6 Security Magazine, Which Countries Have the Worst and Best Cybersecurity? Available at https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/89829-which-countries-have-the-worst-and-best-cybersecurity.
7 Roartech, Can Sri Lanka's Cyber Security Strategy Protect Us? available at https://roar.media/english/tech/insights/can-sri-lanka-s-cyber-security-strategy-protect-us/.
8 Kathmandu Post, 19 govt sites breached in latest cyberattack, available at https://kathmandupost.com/valley/2017/11/04/19-govt-sites-breached-in-latest-cyberattack.
9 Bangladesh Digital Security Act, 2018 available at https://www.cirt.gov.bd/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Digital-Security-Act-2018-English-version.pdf.
10 Sri Lanka Cyber Security Bill, 2019, available at https://www.cert.gov.lk/Downloads/Cyber_Security_Bill_2019-05-22_LD_Final_Version.pdf.
11 Framework for Proposed Data Protection Bill, 2019, available at http://www.mdiit.gov.lk/images/Legal_framework_for_proposed_DP_Bill_11th_June_2019_-_revised_FINAL_ver3.pdf.
12 Nepal Privacy Act, 2075 (2018), available at http://www.lawcommission.gov.np/en/archives/category/documents/prevailing-law/statutes-acts/the-privacy-act-2075-2018.
13 Nepal Information Technology Bill 2075 (2018).
48 BTRC, Number of Internet Subscribers, available at http://www.btrc.gov.bd/content/internet-subscribers-bangladesh-june-2018.
49 World Economic Forum, The Global Information Technology Report 2016, available at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GITR2016/WEF_GITR_Full_Report.pdf.
50 International Telecommunications Union, Global Cybersecurity Index & cyberwellness profiles, 2015, available at https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-d/opb/str/D-STR-SECU-2015-PDF-E.pdf.
51 Bangladesh Information Communication Technology Act, 2006, available at http://www.icnl.org/research/library/files/Bangladesh/comm2006.pdf.
52 Page 48, Cybersecurity Capacity Review, Bangladesh, 2018, available at https://www.nrdcs.lt/file/repository/resources/CMM_Bangladesh_Report_FINAL.pdf.
53 e-Government Master Plan for Digital Bangladesh, available at http://bcc.portal.gov.bd/sites/default/files/files/bcc.portal.gov.bd/page/ecbb5603_1eac_4bf0_99fe_628e9980c279/e-Government%20Masterplan%20for%20Digital%20Bangladesh_V6.0%20(2).pdf.
54 Digital Bangladesh Concept Note, 2009, available at http://btri.portal.gov.bd/sites/default/files/files/btri.portal.gov.bd/page/a556434c_e9c9_4269_9f4e_df75d712604d/Digital%20Bangladesh%20Concept%20Note_Final.pdf.
55 Bangladesh National Cybersecurity Strategy, 2014, available at http://www.dpp.gov.bd/upload_file/gazettes/10041_41196.pdf.
56 Bangladesh Digital Security Act, 2018, available at https://www.cirt.gov.bd/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Digital-Security-Act-2018-English-version.pdf.
57 Chapter Six, Bangladesh Digital Security Act, 2018.
58 Section 21, Bangladesh Digital Security Act, 2018.
59 Section 25, Bangladesh Digital Security Act, 2018.
60 Section 27, Bangladesh Digital Security Act, 2018.
61 Section 29, Bangladesh Digital Security Act, 2018.
62 Section 3(1), Digital Security Act, 2018.
63 Sections 5, Bangladesh Digital Security Act, 2018.
64 Section 8, Digital Security Act, 2018.
65 Section 38, Digital Security Act, 2018.
66 Section 26, Digital Security Act, 2018.
67 The Kathmandu Post, Everything you need to know about the Nepal government's new IT bill, available at https://kathmandupost.com/national/2019/02/22/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-governments-new-it-bill; Sandaran Rubatheesan, Flaws in draft cybersecurity bill under review, available at http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190630/news/flaws-in-draft-cybersecurity-bill-under-review-355893.html; Rock Ronald Rozario and Stephan Uttom, Bangladesh's digital security act: old wine in new bottle? UCA News , available at https://www.ucanews.com/news/bangladeshs-digital-security-act-old-wine-in-new-bottle/83471.
68 The Kathmandu Post, Everything you need to know about the Nepal government's new IT bill, available at https://kathmandupost.com/national/2019/02/23/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-governments-new-it-bill; Ruwandi Gamage, IT industry wants more say in Cyber Security Bill, available at http://www.ft.lk/front-page/IT-industry-wants-more-say-in-Cyber-Security-Bill/44-679709; S. Barik, Banladesh's Digital Security Bill can have a 'chilling effect on free speech': Asia Internet Coalition, available at https://www.medianama.com/2019/07/223-bangladeshs-digital-security-bill-can-have-a-chilling-effect-on-free-speech-asia-internet-coalition/.
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