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Address by
The Hon. Pehin Dato Zakaria Sulaiman, Minister of Communications, Brunei Darussalam
TELECOM & IT POLICY AND MARKET REGULATION
Plenary Session 2

Mr. Chair, Your Excellencies Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

By the beginning of 2002, more than half the countries in the world had fully or partially privatized their incumbent telecommunications operator. Competition has spread widely, due to the fast uptake of new players, maximizing their business opportunities from the emergence of new services and possibilities in the telecommunications and info communication industries.

It is timely for policy makers and regulators to start rethinking their directions in policy and regulatory matters in this fast changing and converging telecommunications sector.

From our own experiences, we are facing a Changing Landscape – our policy readiness towards a convergent sector. We have enacted new telecommunications and info communications laws. More importantly, we now have in place the Electronic Transaction Order 2001, allowing online or e-transactions to be conducted with confidence, trust and with proper legal framework. In implementing our liberalization and corporatisation policy, we have opened up telecommunications services for competition. In the Mobile telephony, we have accepted the idea of a second mobile operator and hopefully a second mobile license will be granted before the end of the year. With regards to 3G mobile licensing, the Government has already allocated the appropriate 3G spectrum for service providers in the economy.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the same time, we also view the importance of addressing the issue of Digital Divide at the national level. Our statistics show an impressive 95% household penetration for fixed telephony, and a mobile penetration of more than 40%. Despite this impressive achievement, our Internet Penetration is still relatively low compared to fixed line household and mobile telephony penetration. This gap between basic access and Internet usage clearly pose a case for concern in our economy.

Efforts in narrowing the Digital Divide and making ICT services available to all levels of society in the economy are our top priority. Initiatives have been taken to introduce IT into our sub-districts (mukims) and villages (kampongs) through our Mukims.Net project. Another initiative we are implementing is the use of our Post Offices in the remote rural areas as “Cyber Centres”, hence targeting those who do not have PCs or Internet access at home, schools or workplace. These centers will cater for the elderly, pensioners and school children.

In the Government’s effort to diversify its economy from too much dependence on Oil and Gas, ICT has been identified as a potentially viable growth sector in Brunei Darussalam. An ICT Development Fund has been allocated in the National Development Plan 2001-2005, providing a scheme valued at about B$1 Billion, or about 2% of the National Development Fund. This includes expansion and upgrading of nationwide network and corporate infrastructure, E-Government, E-Education, E-Health and the setting up of the Brunei Cyber Park.

On ICT policy developments, we have fostered a Government-Industry-Academic Leaders Partnership in the form of the Brunei Darussalam Information Technology (BIT) Council. Through this Council, we are pro-actively implementing the national IT Master Plan IT 2000 & Beyond, with particular focus on e – Government, e-Business and e-Society. E-Government will predominantly become the “Flagship” of the nation where the Government will lead by example in the actual realization of e-services and applications of the civil service. This is one area where we hope to see a substantial degree of government - business cooperation (in creating a strong B2G and G2G relationship). We expect an intensive rollout of e-government services and applications in the next couple of years. With regard to the Brunei Cyber Park, this is our lead initiative that aims to facilitate an incubator program in information and telecommunications industries. In addition, with this Cyber Park in place, we foresee a potential area for job creation and opportunities in our economy. For this purpose, we welcome the participation of foreign investors in helping us realize our objective in moving Brunei towards a knowledge-based economy.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to touch briefly on a subject of some concern to us – that is the issue of International Charging Arrangement for Internet Services (ICAIS). This subject was raised by others of yesterdays session. I must admit there has been considerable progress by APEC TEL through its Internet Issues Task Group (IITG) but I still feel there is further work to be done for a meaningful implementation of ICAIS.

We are particularly anxious to see some development on this issue as we are one of those Economies who are adversely affected by the asymmetry in the charging arrangements of Internet Services. Without a sustainable cost-sharing model, we would undoubtedly be subject to a costly arrangement. A costly arrangement would mean our Internet Service Providers would have to run their businesses at a high fixed operating cost - hence, directly translating to a relatively high Internet Services Charges to the Consumers. Being a small sized market economy, a sustainable charging model will go a long way in our efforts to narrow the digital divide.

I would, therefore, strongly urge that we encourage our industry players to develop new initiatives that would accelerate the implementation of an equitable cost sharing for Internet Services. In addition, I would also urge other colleagues to consider the establishment of a regional APEC content, and at the same time to look into ways of enhancing peering arrangements amongst our Internet Services Providers in the region. With these proposals, I believe Internet traffic could be channeled in a more sustainable as well as a cost effective manner.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I also wish to take this opportunity to commend the excellent work of the APEC TEL Working Group in the area of e-Security. This work is being proactively addressed by the TEL e-Security Task Group, evolving from Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to Electronic Authentication. Security breaches may cost Governments or companies huge amounts in lost opportunities or productivity, so both Government and industry sectors need to adopt a more pro-active attitude towards IT security. Information Week & Pricewaterhouse Coopers have estimated a global loss of revenue resulting from security breaches, virus attacks and downtime of about US$1.6 trillion a year.

I have heard recent issues in Cyber Terrorism on how Security Networks could actually play very important roles in counter attacking, or eradicating terrorist activities, or vice versa. In his keynote address to the recent World Conference on IT (WCIT) Adelaide, Australia (27 Feb 2002), Former US President Bill Clinton raised his concern as how Network Infrastructures like the Internet could be used as a network for terrorists (Pro-Terrorist), or on the other hand, as a key network to fight against terrorism (Con-Terrorist). This, we feel is something we should ponder about. And fits with the work of our APEC TEL e-Security Task Group. I, therefore, urge colleagues at this Meeting to jointly enhance our concerted efforts towards realizing a fully secure information and communications infrastructure within our APEC region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Another policy concern I wish to raise here is the issue of self-regulation versus the government regulation, specifically with regard to the value of broadcast content from the Internet. This is a subject we discussed yesterday during the 3-Party Dialogue. We recognize the difference and cross-cultural values practised in our diverse economies and a universal value against pheodophiles, language of hatred, racism, and others. However, “hybrid” content such as Online Gambling has proliferated over the Net and this imposes challenges to the values of our economies. Age is now becoming irrelevant to be part of the online user for the “hybrid” content. Because of this, our young population will be most vulnerable and the obvious casualties of this new development and trend. I don’t want to bore you with this but I thought this subject is important enough for us to direct the APEC TEL Working Group to study the content issue and the possibility of coming up with a minimum set of guidelines or standards for best practice in Internet Broadcast content.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by saying that it is critical that policy makers take this opportunity to foster stronger cooperation amongst their circle, and to join hands in supporting the work done by the APEC TEL Working Group now being ably led by Mr. Richard Thwaites of Australia. I applaud the Group’s work particularly in the areas of Convergence and e-Security as well as in efforts to address the Digital Divide.

Lastly my sincere and warm thanks to you, Mr. Chairman, and to all those who have dedicated themselves in organizing this timely meeting.

Thank you. ***END OF DOCUMENT***

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