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Digital Rights and Governance in Asia: The State of the Arts

A panel of distinguished international visitors and Australia-based experts discuss and debate the 'hot button' issues being raised by Asian digital transformations.

Digital technology is widely viewed as pivotal to social, cultural, economic, and political transformations - especially across the great diversity of Asian countries, cultures, and settings.

In recent decades, the Asian region has seen pioneering efforts in digital innovation, from early mobile phones, digital politics, e-health, virtual worlds and games through to the vast investments underway in the sharing economy, digital government and national visions, social media, 5G mobile networks, robotics, artificial intelligence, biometrics and data infrastructures.

At the same time the rise of these technologies has prompted public calls for digital rights and better governance of new information systems and platforms. Yet internationally, discussion of digital rights often focusses on and assumes the models, concepts, and issues bound up with dominant North America and European experiences.

Against this backdrop, this Sydney Ideas event explores the dynamic area of digital rights and governance in Asia – the issues, challenges and opportunities for nations and the region.

A panel of distinguished international visitors as well as Australia-based experts will discuss and debate:

  • What are the ‘hot button’ issues being raised by Asian digital transformations?
  • What issues are posed across different Asian jurisdictions for democracy, equality, and rights?
  • How are Asian societies faring with governance of digital platforms hosted in the region, as well as those owned and controlled elsewhere?
  • What models and insights can we gain for digital rights internationally from Asian digital cultures, experiences, and political and policy responses?

This event was co-presented with Sydney Law School, Sydney Southeast Asian Centre, China Studies Centre, and Media@Sydney at the University of Sydney on Thursday 12 April 2018.


Aim is lecturer in the University of Sydney’s Department of Government and International Relations. Her research interests centre on the relationships between digital media, political participation and political regimes in Southeast Asia. She is particularly interested in the role of social media in shaping state-society relations and inducing political and social change. Aim is the co-founder of the Sydney Cyber Security Network and a Thailand country coordinator for the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. She is a regular commentator on Southeast Asian politics for the ABC, SBS, CBC, Channel News Asia, Al Jazeera, CNBC and Sky News.

Ang Peng Hwa is Professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is the Immediate Past President of the International Communication Association, the first Asian to be so elected. His research interests lie in media law and policy and he has consulted on the subject for the governments of Singapore, Thailand and Bhutan. He is the author of Ordering Chaos: Regulating the Internet (Thomson, 2005), which argues that the internet can be, is being and should be regulated. He was a member of 40-strong Working Group on Internet Governance that was appointed by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to prepare a report for the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society.

Anita Gurumurthy is a founding member and executive director of NGO IT for Change based in Bengaluru India, where she leads research collaborations and projects in relation to the network society, with a focus on governance, democracy and gender justice. Her work reflects a keen interest in southern frameworks and the political economy of Internet governance and data and surveillance. Anita engages actively with policy makers, practitioners, social movements activists and the academic community to expand and deepen conversations on the public policy imperatives of the intertwining of the digital in all spheres of life. She also directs and draws inspiration from the work of Prakriye, IT for Change’s field centre, that works towards promoting women’s and girls’ leadership and digital capabilities.

Malavika is the inaugural Executive Director of Digital Asia Hub, a Hong Kong-based independent research think-tank incubated by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, where she is also a Fellow. A technology lawyer for over 15 years, she practised law at Allen & Overy, London, and was Vice President and Technology Counsel at Citigroup. She was featured in the International Who’s Who of Internet e-Commerce & Data Protection Lawyers, and voted one of India’s leading lawyers. She taught India’s first course on Information Technology & Law in 1997, and is adjunct faculty at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. She is on the Advisory Boards of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Mozilla’s Tech Policy Fellowship, and on the Executive Committee of the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. Malavika is an Associate Fellow with Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs), as part of its Asia-Pacific Programme. She is also a member of the High-level Expert Advisory Group to the OECD project, “Going Digital: Making the Transformation Work for Growth and Well-being”.

Romel Regalado Bagares served for many years as the Executive Director of the Center for International Law-Philippines (CenterLaw), an NGO engaged in strategic litigation, training and advocacy to promote the Rule of Law in the Philippines and Asia through binding international legal norms. With extensive experience litigating public interest cases, he is a listed expert for Southeast Asia of the Columbia University Global Free Expression Project and has defended pro bono many freee expression cases on behalf of journalists, bloggers, and human rights defenders in the ASEAN region. Two relevant cases he recently worked on is the landmark constitutional challenge against the Philippine cybercrime law, where the petitioners won substantial victories on key provisions of the law, and the “Comeleak” case, where he is counsel to a landmark complaint filed against top officials of the Philippines’ Commission on Elections over their failure to safeguard the private data pertinent to at least 70 million registered voters from hacking attacks. He has communication research (1994) and law (2003) degrees from the University of the Philippines and a master’s in social and political theory from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, where he graduated cum laude in 2007.

Gerard Goggin is Professor of Media and Communications, and ARC Future Fellow at the University of Sydney. He researches global media policy, especially Internet and mobile media, and has a longstanding interest in digital inequality, social justice, and rights. Gerard has a particular interest in disability, digital technology, and media, and is author of Digital Disability (2003), Disability in Australia (2005), and Disability and the Media (2015). He is leading  gure in mobile communication and media research, with key publications including Cell Phone Culture (2006), Global Mobile Media (2012), and the Routledge Companion to Mobile Media (2014). Gerard is founding co-editor of the new journal Internet Histories, and the Routledge Companion to Global Internet Histories (2017).

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