ASEAN bloc to build submarine cable network, link government apps
PLUS: TikTok returns to Indonesian e-commerce; Chinese giants' EV battery swap scheme; India drops mobile tariffs
APAC in Brief The eleven-nation ASEAN bloc has decided to create a regional network of submarine cables, and to push for interoperability of member governments' digital infrastructure.
News of the planned submarine network came in the declaration [PDF] issued after the fourth ASEAN Digital Ministers' Meeting. That document saw the eleven member nations resolve to build a "secure, diverse and resilient submarine cable network for regional and global connectivity," complete with regional capabilities to deploy and maintain the cables.
Another outcome from the Ministers' Meeting was a resolution to develop "high quality, open, safe, flexible, inter-operable digital public infrastructure and e-government services to connect people and businesses in ASEAN, to develop a digital ecosystem, undergirded by robust efforts to enhance cyber security."
"Digital public infrastructure" is a term championed by India and denotes government-run apps that provide useful services for citizens, and for corporates. Interoperability across ASEAN has the potential to improve economic integration across the bloc, which comprises Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – and therefore comfortably more than 500 million people.
Another outcome of the Meeting was a plan to create a Working Group that will attempt to prevent and combat online scams by sharing policies and best practices, and supporting enforcement actions across the bloc.
– Simon Sharwood
TikTok returns to Indonesian e-commerce
TikTok has completed its merger with Indonesian e-commerce player Tokopedia – a win for the made-in-China social network after Indonesia last year banned e-commerce within its app.
The ban was implemented to protect local e-commerce players and small retailers that Indonesia's government felt could struggle to compete against a dominant social network.
TikTok responded by proposing to acquire a 75 percent stake in Tokopedia, giving it access to the fast-growing Indonesian market. That deal was finalized [PDF] last Wednesday.
"This marks a major milestone for GoTo, Tokopedia and TikTok Shop, as the enlarged entity will be able to supercharge growth for Indonesia's MSMEs and digital economy, benefitting millions of people," declared GoTo on LinkedIn.
Under the deal, TikTok bought a 75.01 percent stake in Tokopedia for $840 million. TikTok's e-commerce service, TikTok Shop, is in return integrated into the Tokopedia entity.
"The integration and migration process for a seamless shopping experience within Tokopedia and the TikTok app in Indonesia has been making good progress and is set to be completed within the trial period in consultation with the relevant ministries and in line with prevailing regulations," explained GoTo in a statement.
Singapore judge nixes non-compete agreement
A Singapore judge has declined to hear a case that would enforce a non-compete agreement and prevent a former senior employee of e-commerce biz Shopee from joining ByteDance.
The defendant's attorneys celebrated on LinkedIn after managing "to secure a dismissal of an application for an interim injunction brought against our client on the basis of a non-compete clause."
The judge in the case ruled Shopee raised no "serious question" to be tried in the case against the eight-year veteran who led the firm in Brazil, despite his contract including a condition that he was not to pursue employment with a competitor for 12 months .
The man ignored the clause and went to work for ByteDance, the parent of TikTok.
Justice Kwek Mean Luck asserted that the TikTok Shop cannot be considered a competitor of Shopee in Brazil because the TikTok Shop does not have operations there.
"To me what is most interesting is that they chose to go to court. This means that they somehow believed that they could win," Dr Catherine Wu told The Register. Wu is a professor of organizational behavior specializing in cultural intelligence and global leadership at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.
"The fact that non-compete clauses are being curtailed in the US and Europe because they are not in the interest of employees is also aligned with more individualistic cultural beliefs and practices that favor individual rights over group obligations," she asserted.
"In more collectivist cultures as in Asia, people are expected to act in the best interest of the collective even if it's at the expense of the individual. And this often shapes what employers expect of employees," explained Wu.
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India slashes mobile component taxes
India last week reduced its import duty on mobile components from 15 percent to 10 percent – a further incentive for manufacturers to move their operations to the subcontinent.
Among the components eligible for reduced import tax are phone and battery covers, and camera lenses. Imports used to manufacture these components will undergo no import duty. The India Cellular & Electronics Association expressed the mobile phone industry's appreciation for the changes, thanking IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar "for this critical and welcome policy intervention of tariff rationalization on mobile inputs" which move the nation "towards making mobile manufacturing competitive in India."
CATL and Didi team for ride-sharing battery swaps
Chinese ride hailing company Didi and Chinese battery-maker CATL have joined forces to create electric vehicle battery swap facilities.
"The battery-swapping joint venture will rely on the technical advantages and operational capabilities of both parties to combine and provide efficient battery-swapping services for many new energy vehicles from the perspective of online ride-hailing scenarios," stated an announcement.
The duo also agreed to promote EV adoption and explore other collaborations, including storage-integrated EV charging facilities.
In other news
In other regional news The Register covered last week, China's ChangXin Memory Technologies reportedly made a breakthrough in production of high-bandwidth memory – a tech that US-led sanctions have prevented from reaching the Middle Kingdom.
US authorities, meanwhile, proposed having cloud services providers be more vigilant to ensure they're not renting Chinese companies tech that's subject to export restrictions.
In India, economic advisors to prime minister Narendra Modi dished up some rather odd advice about AI.
We also spotted Microsoft hiring for a role dedicated to securing land for datacenters across the APAC region.
In Japan, the government finally farewelled floppy disks. ®