We travelled through the region on three occasions. First, we spent five weeks traveling to India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Pakistan and Thailand in June and July 2008. In each country we arranged for meetings with key members of civil society, academia, as well as officials from governments and industry. Then we travelled in November 2008 to Bangladesh and returned to India for further meetings around the Hyderabad meeting of the Internet Governance Forum. Finally, we returned to Bangkok in May 2009 to meet with all our close partners in the region for a capacity-building workshop.
We met with civil society organisations in each country. These groups ranged from privacy groups, human rights groups, media and journalist groups, digital rights groups, and consumer protection organisations. We also met with key experts in a number of countries, ranging from retired industry specialists, legal experts, and technology experts. The goal was to try to interest these groups and experts in privacy issues, and to learn from them about their successful campaigns and strategies in each country.
- In Bangladesh we worked with the consumer group VOICE, who in turn introduced us to media groups and other consumer specialists.
- In India, through the guidance of independent experts and the director of the Society in Action Group, we met with a number of experts, consumer groups, and human rights groups including experts from UNHCR, Partners in Change, Development Alternatives, as well as with influential journalists.
- In Malaysia, the Centre for Independent Journalism were kind enough to host a meeting between us and a number of non-governmental organisations and legal experts. While in Malaysia, we also worked closely with the refugee communities as part of our work with UNHCR.
- In Pakistan, through the guidance of APC, we met with consumer groups including CPDI, Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan, and human rights experts.
- In the Philippines we worked with the Foundation for Media Alternatives, who in turn introduced us to a number of other organisations including media organisations, free speech organisations, and technology organisations.
- In Thailand we met with the Internews Network who were able to introduce us to key researchers into online rights issues.
In a number of countries, we met with academics who worked in areas relating to consumer and human rights. Our partnership with the London School of Economics and Political Science was integral to developing these relationships. These academics were able to help us understand the local policy dynamics and identified important case studies.
- In Pakistan we worked with colleagues at the Foundation for Advance of Science and Technology at the Lahore campus (FAST-NU), and gave a guest lecture on privacy issues.
- In Thailand we worked extensively with the University of Chulalongkorn, where they are conducting leading research on privacy rights. We also met with a Professor from the Faculty of Law, Sukothai University.
We also liaised continuously with researchers at the University of Hong Kong, particularly within the School of Law.
Government Officials and Regulators
The availability of officials in each country varied. In some countries we arranged meetings with Parliamentarians (the Philippines), government representatives and officials (Malaysia, Pakistan, and Thailand), and regulators (India's Central Information Commission, the Philippines Telecommunications Authority, and Thailand's Office of the Information Commission). Other meetings were arranged but had to be cancelled due to last minute changes in schedules. In this role it was again helpful that we were working in partnership with the LSE as government officials are keen to meet with academic experts on these issues.
As a result of these communications and meetings we have a far better understanding of the essential government bodies to approach on the various issues. For instance, in Pakistan we will have to work more closely with the Pakistan Software Export Board to discuss the development of adequate protections for outsourcing.
Industry experts and organisations were essential to our work in these countries.
- In the Philippines we met with industry associations and representatives, including the Philippine Internet Commerce Society, to understand their interests in privacy laws, and they were able to introduce us to key policy-makers and members of Congress.
- In Thailand we met with the Office of the Information Commission through an introduction from Microsoft.
- In India we met with the National Technology Officer of Microsoft to discuss the legal situation regarding communications surveillance. We also met with the Data Security Council of India, an industry body, to discuss the challenges of establishing a data protection law.
As similar policies are being adopted in a variety of countries, we recommend further collaboration with industry representatives. For instance, if a mobile phone registration law arises in the Philippines, as the Telecommunications Authority discussed with us when we met in Manila, we could learn from the experiences of international mobile phone providers who have encountered similar laws in India and Pakistan.