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China accelerates drive for scientific self-sufficiency

Plus: Grab's custom GitOps; Alipay's RISC-V payments push; NTT Data's solar wrap plan; and more

Asia In Brief The full session of China's National People’s Congress – the annual meeting of the nation's supreme legislative body – has seen officials announce accelerated plans to achieve scientific self-sufficiency.

Legislators signed off on a revised science and innovation law that will speed key innovation efforts, and president Xi Jinping weighed in with his opinion that doing so will see China able to achieve high-quality development of its economy.

Details of the policy remain obscure, but are thought to include extra funds for semiconductor research and perhaps a new institution to direct it. Both are seen as tacit admissions that US-led chip sanctions are hurting China, and that the "Big Fund" Beijing has used to direct previous efforts – and which is mired in corruption allegations – is not up to the job.

– Simon Sharwood

Alibaba throws its weight behind RISC-V

Chinese tech giant Alibaba last week threw its weight behind the open RISC-V CPU architecture, and expressed a desire to encourage development on the platform. It wants to see RISC-V silicon for applications from wearables to the cloud.

Last Thursday saw Alibaba's RISC-V Ecological Conference to showcase its own efforts and those of other Chinese developers. One of the latter was its own financial services subsidiary Ant Group, which announced on its social media feed it has developed RISC-V based silicon for payments devices and wearables, and will soon deploy both.

The sheer scale of Alibaba's operations in China means that effort could create welcome momentum for RISC-V. Alibaba also plans to assist developers from across the Middle Kingdom to improve their familiarity and prowess with RISC-V.

– Simon Sharwood

Outsourcing thrives in Philippines

The IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) last week released a report indicating that 2022 revenues for the nation's IT and business process management (IT-BPM) reached between $31 billion and $33 billion.

The industry's total headcount in the Philippines sat between 1.5 and 1.6 million in 2022. The country produces around 850,000 industry new grads every year.

"The Philippines is the second largest services delivery location, with a 16–18 percent share of the global IT-BPM services industry by headcount," declared the organization.

Grab develops in-house GitOps solution to tame K8s

Singaporean super-app Grab has developed an in-house GitOps solution to handle growth of its development efforts and automatically scale infrastructure, according to a blog post last week from DevOps engineer Than Le

"We have evaluated some of the best and most widely used GitOps products available but chose not to go with any as the majority of them aim to support Kubernetes native or custom resources, and we needed infrastructure provisioning that is beyond Kubernetes," wrote the engineer.

The solution, called Khone, is divided into three stages. An Initialization stage categorizes changes as deleted, created or changed, and filters unsupported resource types. A Terraform stage runs either Terraform plan or Terraform apply commands. A Metric stage consolidates status of previous jobs and publishes pipeline metrics, including success and error rate.

"With security being our main focus for our Khone GitOps pipeline, we plan to abide by the principle of least privilege and implement separate GitLab runners for different types of resources and assign them with just enough IAM roles and policies, and minimal network security group rules to access our Kafka or Kubernetes clusters," promised Le.

The app-slinger also plans to incorporate unit tests in CI scripts to ensure proper testing prior to deployment.

China reminds its populace the internet should reflect Xi Jinping-styled socialism

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) last week issued a plan for the construction of a "digital China" which integrates the country's digital and real economies while portraying a Chinese Xi Jinping-styled socialism online.

"The Plan pointed out that the construction of digital China is an important engine for promoting Chinese-style modernization in the digital age, and it is a strong support for building new advantages in national competition," declared the CAC.

The regulator set goals for China to be the "forefront of the world" in terms of digital development by 2035.

The plan to get there involves many goals with vague directives – such as "make the digital economy stronger, better and bigger," "accelerate the coordinated construction of 5G networks and Gigabit optical networks," "further promote the large-scale deployment and application of IPv6," and "promote the comprehensive development of the mobile Internet of Things."

The org also wants to optimize computer power infrastructure layout and improve application infrastructure as a whole.

Scheme to boost freelancers in Pakistan through financial access

Pakistan's prime minister Shehbaz Sharif last week announced the Bank of Punjab had created a business unit and credit card tailored to the needs of the nation's tech freelancers. The card comes with a specialized digital account that operates in both Pakistan rupees and US dollars to allow for foreign remittances.

Pakistan hopes its freelance community can become a major source of export revenue.

Rockwell Automation acquires India-based Knowledge Lens

American industrial automation and digital transformation megalith Rockwell Automation last week announced it had acquired India-based big data and automation concern Knowledge Lens. "Knowledge Lens will join Rockwell's premier digital services business, Kalypso, to accelerate transformational outcomes for more manufacturers around the world," said Rockwell.

Korea to establish space exploration and research aerospace agency

Korea's Ministry of Science and ICT announced on Thursday it had begun the process to establish an independent aerospace agency that would have a role similar to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US.

Toshiba drama isn’t over yet as doubts surround proposed buyout

Doubt hangs over whether Japan Industrial Partners' alleged buyout of scandal-ridden Japanese tech giant Toshiba will come to fruition. A major shareholder has reportedly called the proposed price "disappointing" and one of the players in the acquisition negotiation, Toshiba executive Goro Yanase resigned following an investigation into his business expenses.

Australia blocks Chinese linked fund from rare earth buy

Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board, and its federal treasurer, have blocked a Chinese associated fund's bid to increase its stake in Northern Minerals, a rare earths producer. The Singapore-registered Yuxiao Fund – reportedly an investment vehicle for Chinese national Yuxiao Wu – sought to increase its stake from ten to around twenty percent. The fund already owns lower-grade rare earth mines in Mozambique.

NTT Data to coat datacenter in solar cells by 2030

Japanese IT outsourcing and consulting outfit NTT Data announced last week it will begin testing the installation of film-type perovskite solar cells on the exterior walls of its buildings – including datacenters – starting April 2023. The company said after testing it will install the cells at all 16 of its datacenters and offices in Japan in an effort to support carbon neutrality by fiscal 2030.

In other news …

Our regional coverage from last week included the think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute's assessment that China has taken the lead in research on 37 of 44 critical or emerging technologies. The US comes in a close second in most categories, but only leads in seven.

Japanese IT services giant Fujitsu announced on Wednesday that it plans to hire 1,600 employees and will also acquire German software-for-retailers provider GK Software.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) claimed it erased 54.3 million pieces of information it deemed inappropriate during 2022 as part of its campaign to clean up the internet.

The CAC also announced new regulations for sending data abroad.

Researchers in China suggested aggressive countermeasures against SpaceX's StarLink satellite internet service for both strategic and military gain.

Ten Japanese companies, including IT services giant Fujitsu and automobile manufacturer Mitsubishi, embarked embarked on a collaboration to create an advertiser-friendly immersive gaming environment that will be the "Japan Metaverse Economic Zone."

German chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country wanted to import more qualified IT workers from India and would ease the visa requirements to do so.

The Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) saga goes on as candidates advocating for a major overhaul of the organization fail to win any seats on the Executive Council.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published an article conveying that China's attempts to influence technical standards groups remain uncoordinated, unsophisticated and unsuccessful – but still worthy of attention.

A fire that damaged Apple supplier Foxlink – a maker of Lightning cables – will result in production disruptions. ®

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