China's first undersea datacenter sinks – as planned

PLUS: India's landmark digital law delayed; Singaporean banks de-digitize some accounts; AUKUS to unleash AI

Asia In Brief China last week sank the first modules of an undersea datacenter.

The Hainan Undersea Data Center Demonstration Development Project will eventually see over 100 cylindrical modules lowered around 35 meters to rest on the sand off Hainan island. China Television reports that the project will sink 60,000 unspecified computers that will together have the capacity of a supercomputer. The machines will be cooled by seawater and operate in an environment free of oxygen and dust.

The modules have a lifespan of 25 years and rely on a shore station for power and connectivity.

Chinese state media reports the project aims to save 122 million kilowatt-hours of electricity compared to what a similar terrestrial datacenter consumes each year.

China's not the only entity pursuing aquatic datacenters: an outfit named Subsea cloud plans to deliver a service to match its name, while Microsoft has tried its own watery cloud. – Simon Sharwood

Long-awaited Digital India Act delayed

India's much awaited and very late Digital India Act will not be available prior to the country's next elections – set to take place between April and May 2024 – according to IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar last Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, I don't think we'll be able to catch the legislative window before the elections because we need certainly a lot of consultation and debate and discussion around it," conceded Chandrasekhar, speaking at the Digifraud & Safety Summit 2023 and noted by news outlet Media Nama.

The Digital India Bill is set to replace the country's current IT Act – a 23-year-old bill that is so outdated it doesn't even mention the internet or consider matters such as data protection.

The Digital India Act has so much catching up to do that it's been criticized for its broad scope.

The Act entered consultation in March and a draft was expected midyear, but now appears to be at least a year late.

Singapore banks offer non-digital accounts

A number of local banks in Singapore last week introduced a feature that will allow users to allocate certain money in their accounts for in-person withdrawal only.

The move comes after the city-state faced a number of scams where private citizens saw their bank accounts drained – including a February 2022 ruse where threat actors stole a combined $10.2 million from 800 people using spoofed bank text messages.

"The enhanced account security better protects customers against digital threats, and protects them from reacting impulsively to scammer demands," according to one participant, United Overseas Bank.

While users of UOB's "LockAway Account" will have to show up in person with appropriate identification to retrieve their money, they can use the app to lock it away.

Singapore based-bank Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) explained that money in its "Money Lock" accounts cannot be digitally transferred locally or overseas, used to pay bills or credit cards, tied up in investments or fixed deposit placements, or withdrawn in ATMs.

AUKUS picks AI to stop Chinese subs

The AUKUS alliance of the UK, Australia, and the United States last week announced plans to deploy artificial intelligence to locate Chinese submarines.

The centerpiece of the AUKUS alliance is a plan for the US and UK to share their nuclear submarine technology with Australia, which will build its first atom-powered boats with the help of its allies to improve its first strike/deterrence capability in the region.

Australia's future subs will replace diesel-powered boats that are increasingly easy for adversaries to find.

Nuclear-powered subs can be very hard to spot, and China is building them at an impressive rate.

AUKUS suggesting it can spot them with AI is a signal the three allies intend to put China's navy under increased surveillance.

The alliance has also stepped up its collaboration around quantum tech and announced plans to "rapidly accelerate the sophistication and scale of autonomous maritime systems that we can deploy and operate together." – Simon Sharwood

Chinese ride-hailing app Didi Global issues $1.40 coupons as apology

Chinese ride sharing app Didi last week experienced multi-day outages across multiple provinces in the Middle Kingdom

The company took to its Weibo account to offer multiple apologies to its 587 million users and referred to the incident Monday and Tuesday messes as a "system malfunction."

"While various services were restored, we launched an internal review investigation on the 28th. It has been preliminarily determined that the cause of the accident was a malfunction of the underlying system software, not an 'attack' transmitted over the internet," explained the Uber-alike.

To further reiterate its contrition, the service issued millions of users coupons worth a whopping 10 yuan (about $1.40) for use within a three-day window that ended on Saturday. Didi Global also promised to compensate riders who had overpaid within 24 hours.

Japan ties chip subsidies to infosec rules

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will soon require companies receiving semiconductor and other related subsidies to take steps that limit the number of people who can access critical technologies – to prevent leaks to foreign countries, according to media reports this week.

The efforts were reportedly detailed at a semiconductor and digital industry meeting on Wednesday.

Employees will also be required to adhere to confidentiality pledges.

In other news …

The Reg's coverage of tech in the APAC region last week included the bombshell that India had decided to exclude its Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) from its own rules about freedom of information. An odd choice, given the controversy that has raged over the rules about reportage of incidents that have been imposed on everyone else in India – and the need for free flow of information about threats.

Over in China, Alibaba appeared to draw a line under its massive an expensive program of research into quantum computers by shutting down a lab and firing researchers – ostensibly planning to redirect those resources into more promising AI research.

Unfortunately for Chinese AI researchers, the chips Nvidia developed specifically for the Chinese market – barely scraping in under the performance limits set down by the US government – have been delayed.

Speaking of which, remember when the CEO of Nvidia rival Cerebras took aim at Nvidia for designing chips to get around the export bans, accusing the accelerator champ of aiding the enemy? Well, it turns out one of the entities that backs Cerebras might have been rather more explicitly doing something similar – by selling advanced tech to the Middle Kingdom in violation of bans.

And in more news of the trade war with China, US lawmakers have begun examining Chinese-made LiDAR equipment – which is a lot of it – for fear it may have a negative impact on national security.

Meanwhile China's semiconductor industry is ramping up in response to the restrictions placed upon it, debuting chips that perform about on par with Intel desktop CPUs as of 2020.

And the propaganda front in the geopolitical maelstrom continues to roil, with Meta and Google both issuing reports about China-backed campaigns of misinformation and disinformation exploiting their respective platforms for no good.

In Japan, a pair of startups are trying a novel strategy to get employees back into the office after the work from home revolution: padding their wallets with cash.

Japan's NTT also made our coverage last week by signing up for Amazon's Project Kuiper space-based internet project – a rival to SpaceX's Starlink. So far NTT is the only customer to sign up, but given Kuiper only has two birds in flight, it's a good start.

In rather more ignominious news from the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan's space agency suffered a cyber attack that caused it to shut down part of its internal network – pointing the finger at a poorly implemented Active Directory installation.

And finally Do Kwon, the "mastermind" behind the Terraform Labs cryptocurrency exchange and its collapse, had his extradition approved, though it remains unclear whether he's headed for Korea or the US – both of which want a piece of him. - In Other News by Matthew Powell ®

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