India buys a third of the world's wearable devices

PLUS: Australian Parliament calls for Assange release; Japan's H3 rocket soars; LINE leak worsens

Asia In Brief Around one in three of the world's wearable devices is bought by someone in India.

Analyst firm IDC last week disclosed the results of its India Monthly Wearable Device Tracker for 2023, reporting that Indian buyers acquired 134.2 million wearables, including smartwatches, fitness trackers and "earwear" – essentially Bluetooth headphones.

Domestic brands boAt, Noise, and Fire topped sales charts, ahead of China's Oppo.

Smartwatch shipments jumped by 73.7 percent year on year to reach 53.4 million.

But just 2.1 percent of those shipments were of what IDC calls "advanced" smartwatches – a category that scored 2.1 percent market share. The average selling price for smartwatches in India fell from $42.5 to $26.1 across 2023.

In mid-2023, IDC predicted global wearable sales would reach 504 million. If that prediction was correct, India is a very substantial source of wearable buyers.

- Simon Sharwood

Australian parliament calls for Julian Assange's freedom

Australia's House of Representatives last week passed a motion calling for US and UK authorities to end legal action against Julian Assange and let him return to Australia to reunite with his family.

The motion was proposed by an independent MP, but won the backing of the government – including prime minister Anthony Albanese – and one opposition member.

Assange will this week seek leave to appeal against an extradition order issued in 2022 that will see him sent to the US to face charges under the Espionage Act. If convicted, Assange could serve a decade on each charge. He's been in prison in the UK for nearly four years, after spending seven years confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

– Simon Sharwood

Japan’s new rocket soars

Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully deployed its H3 launch vehicle on Saturday after its first test flight failed last March.

After liftoff, it released a 2.6-ton dummy satellite called VEP-4. The rocket also carried two other small satellites onboard.

"We are very happy to see such great achievements in the space field following the successful SLIM moon landing. I would like to express my respect for the efforts of everyone involved over the years, and hope that Japan's core rockets will continue to steadily accumulate achievements," Xeeted prime minister Fumio Kishida.

The H3 is designed to be Japan's workhorse launcher, putting it into competition with the likes of the SpaceX and Arianespace for commercial launches.

Leak worsens at top Japanese messaging app LINE

The maker of Japanese messaging app LINE said the app had leaked over 510,000 items of personal data after a cyber attack hit South Korean affiliate, Naver.

The attack occurred in November 2023. Initially only 440,000 items had been breached. But last Wednesday, LINE's developer, LY Corporation, revealed its investigation found another 79,110 items leaked.

"It was discovered that information regarding user information, business partner information, employees, etc. had been leaked due to unauthorized access by a third party," explained the developer. "The incident occurred when a PC owned by an employee of a company that is outsourced to our affiliated company NAVER Cloud in South Korea, which is also our outsourced company, was infected with malware."

LY also discovered evidence of an additional third-party leakage – this time including unauthorized access to systems that hold employee data.

"The accounts of our company and two of our subsidiary companies' outsourced companies were used illegally, and a third party gained unauthorized access to our system," revealed LY Corporation in a separate statement. "This incident was discovered during enhanced investigation and monitoring based on the unauthorized access incident announced on November 27."

LY Corporation outlined efforts to improve subcontractor management, eliminate network risks and strengthen the security of systems used by employees.

LINE remains the most popular social media messaging app in Japan. In 2022, Statista calculated 94 percent of the Japanese population used the app. It has even been used in the past for public communication to government services.

Think tank wants digital public infrastructure as a service

A paper from think tank Carnegie India released last week proposed deploying digital public infrastructure (DPI) as a packaged solution, to facilitate the advancement of smaller nations and others yet to fully move into the digital era.

"It is a new way to think about rolling out solutions that incorporate the DPI approach at scale and speed," wrote [PDF] the authors.

India has championed the concept of DPI and offered its own payment and identity applications to other nations.

The authors want DPI to be deliverable as a cloud-ready package of solutions that reduces definition, procurement and implementation time for adopting nations.

"In addition, it can enable a shift from an approach driven by inputs and capital expenditure to an approach driven by outcomes and operating expenses, significantly reducing traditional risks associated with large IT projects," they added.

India decides to honor influencers

India's government recently revealed plans to honor the country's top digital influencers.

"The National Creators Award aims to spotlight the diverse voices and talents that are shaping India's growth and cultural narrative, driving positive social change, and fostering innovation & creativity in the digital sphere," stated the Ministry of Electronics & IT. The ministry outlined 20 different categories – ranging from disrupter of the year, to celebrity creator, to tech creator, and more.

The announcement referred to the "National Creators Award" as an "inaugural edition," indicating that the commendation is unlikely to be a one-time event.

In other news

The Register's regional coverage last week included accusations that China-backed group Volt Typhoon targeted infrastructure in a major US city, and North Korea is building gambling websites for illegal operators and winning big in terms of cash and malware infestations.

Back in India, an assessment of its drive to attract semiconductor manufacturing investment found the best case outcome is five modest fabs in 2029. India also published proposals to build a massive digital twin, and to seek research on topics including "Artificial Wisdom" – whatever that is.

Australia's Tax Office revealed it had made inquiries into 150 staff after detecting a massive tax refund scam that originated on social media. ®

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