Executive Summary:  
The Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies held a one-day seminar on January 21, 2000 to exchange ideas and perspectives on Asia Pacific information infrastructure issues.  The seminar was divided into five sessions: regional infrastructure developments, the economic implications of information, cases studies of information cooperation and the broad implications of the “Information Age”.  The goal of the seminar was to explore several key questions. What is the impact of the on-going revolution in information capabilities within the region?  What does the information technology revolution mean for regional security planners? What are the prospects that the information revolution will encourage greater cooperation in security matters?  The following are some of the key insights from the seminar discussions:

Security Dimensions of the Information Age.

 Beyond the obvious implications of the Information Age for greatly improved military capabilities in terms of intelligence, smart weapons and improved command and control, the Information Age has the potential to touch all aspects of comprehensive security.  Immediate and increasingly wide-spread access to diverse security related reporting changes the political calculus of decision making in both domestic and international arenas.  The smallest, weakest of opponents can conduct highly effective information campaigns that provide an asymmetric offset to conventional military might.  The social stability of states are increasingly at risk as information technology empowers ethnic or separatist groups and as the social and cultural ties that bind states together are weakened by outside influences.  Economically, it has been argued that competitiveness in information technology is the single most important determinant of overall competitiveness in the emerging global economic system.[1]  The current and planned installations of information infrastructure within Asia and between Asia and the rest of the world will dramatically change the region’s involvement in the Information Age both as benefactor and as potential victim.  For security planners, this two-edged sword threatens great instability but also offers unparalleled opportunities for collaboration and cooperation. 

 Implications for U.S. military engagement in the region.

 The Information Age provides the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) significant opportunities and some risks to the process of military engagement in the region.  The Internet provides a continuously available channel to promulgate and explain U.S. policy and to clarify U.S. understandings of the facts in unfolding events that effect military issues.  Security cooperation and collaborative planning can be enhanced at a pace and expense acceptable to the region.  Information technology may increasingly allow greater, more in-depth engagement than has been practical from either a fiscal or operational tempo perspective.  Interpersonal networks, such as the alumni network of the Asia Pacific Center, represent a new form of engagement at the mid- to senior professional level.  It may be possible to significantly increase the number of functional exchanges, heretofore costly in time and travel expense, through bi-lateral or multilateral “virtual” conferences of relevant experts.  Regional expansion of wireless infrastructure portends opportunities for enhanced engagement at more remote sites—wireless connections open doors for real-time technical, legal or command guidance to deployed assistance teams.  Distant learning activities allow much broader access to foreign military personnel for training within the confines of U.S. law.  Downside risks include the possibility that “virtual engagement” could replace real engagement with the attendant loss of human understanding and trust vital to cooperation.  There is also the difficulty in maintaining a consistent policy perspective or “story” as the number of interactive links grows.     

While Asia is pursuing information infrastructure at a very rapid pace, there are still some daunting realities facing the region.  Asia’s extant infrastructure currently remains comparatively sparse and heavily urban-based.  The use of credit cards and electronic banking is not wide-spread and remains alien to cultural practice in much of the region.  The physical transportation infrastructure to move goods, once they are electronically ordered, is very weak in most Asian countries.  At the same time, developments in wireless communications technologies offer the opportunity for lesser developed countries to “leap-frog” existing or antiquated copper-wire based infrastructures to a cutting-edge technology that enables immediate, wide-spread access to the benefits of the information age. 

E-commerce touches all sectors of the Asia-Pacific economy and there are key differences between the business culture in Asia and that of the United States or Europe.  In short, Asian culture tend to focus more on the process of relationships among people while the West often focus more on the achievement of a desired outcome.  In the West trust resides in rules and standards, in Asia trust resides in specific persons.  Bridging these gaps will help shape the course of E-commerce world-wide. 

The depth and impact of system interdependence was spotlighted during preparations for the Y2K problem.  There can no longer be any doubt: the information age has bound us so tightly that we must work together or perish separately. 

The components of an emerging Asia Pacific information paradigm suggests that:  

  § Asia’s future is tied to the Information Age.  Asia has a narrow window of opportunity to “leap-frog” to a position of real strength vis-à-vis developed nations.  As Europe and the United States continue to pursue global information positions, the window for Asian entrepreneurs will begin to close.

 § “Soft Power” counts.  In countering the negative cultural impacts of the Internet, societies must rely on moral suasion and education.  On the international scene, skillful use of information resources is becoming as important as the skillful use of physical resources.

Free market forces dominate information infrastructure development.  The role of government is to provide law and order. 

  §  Global access must be combined and balanced with local content.  Globalization of economies demands increasing openness and access to markets—much of which will be in English and dominated by developed countries.  At the same time, language barriers, cultural preferences and desires to sustain social structures demand an increasing portion of the information content be in local languages and presented in culturally acceptable ways. 

The traditional Asian focus on consensus and cooperative approaches can provide a sound foundation for regional and global models of information development.  

  Asia Pacific Area Network (APAN)

APAN is an effort to use commercial Internet linkages to encourage greater defense interaction, confidence-building and enhanced security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.  APAN is based on the premise that the Internet can be used for the immediate and inexpensive exchange of information and perspectives among defense/security planners, particularly in the areas of peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.  Still under development, APAN is hosted by the U.S. Pacific Command but is a non-U.S. Department of Defense site which belongs to all of the regional nations that choose to become participants in the network.


Information is increasingly a key component of national power and national security.  In fact, some would argue that the “Information Age” is the most important change in the way people and societies interact since the beginning of the Industrial Age.  Over the past several years, despite a severe economic crisis in many Asian nations, the Asia Pacific region has made tremendous strides in building basic information infrastructure, joining the Internet society, and coming to terms with the implications and requirements of the Information Age.  In a number of high technology or information-focused sectors, Asian nations such as India, Singapore, and Japan are clearly among the world’s leaders.  Other regional nations such as China, Thailand, and Indonesia are rapidly developing impressive information resources from a very low starting point.  There are a number of efforts within the region to ensure that national information infrastructures are coordinated and integrated into sub-regional networks and into the global information infrastructure.  The advent of wide-spread access to information and information processing capabilities has the potential to impact all areas of security from economic competitiveness to social stability to military power.

The Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) held a one-day seminar on January 21, 2000 to exchange ideas and perspectives among practitioners and analysts interested in the impact of information technology on security issues and the prospects for enhanced regional cooperation resulting from the development of national and regional information infrastructures.  The seminar was divided into five sessions:  an overview of regional infrastructure developments, the economic implications of information infrastructure growth, cases studies of defense/security cooperation in the information arena and a concluding session on the broad implications of the Information Age.  A list of seminar participants is included at the end of this report.  

The goal of the seminar was to explore several key questions. What are the political and economic impacts of the on-going revolution in information capabilities within the region?  What does that revolution mean for regional security planners? What are the prospects that the development of information infrastructures encourage cooperation in security matters?

This report is intended to serve as a summary of the seminar’s discussions and provide the basis for further exploration of the security implications of developments in the Asia Pacific information infrastructure.  [2]

Changing Nature of Asia’s Information Infrastructure

Asia has awoken to the Information Age.  Virtually every country in the region has a formal plan to develop its information infrastructure.  Over the past several years, Asian countries have shown very high growth rates in information infrastructure investment and in the development of information consumption markets.  In one year, 1999, the number of Internet users in Asia increased from 12.9 million to 21.8 million (68%) while on-line purchases went from US$723 million to US$2.2 billion (204%).  The annual compound growth rate for Internet users in Asia for the period 1997-2003 is estimated to be 56 percent.[3].  By 2005, the number of Internet users in the region is estimated to reach 228 million.[4]  Even countries that tightly control information flows such as Vietnam have Internet cafes. 

At the same time, there are a number of efforts underway to ensure that those plans are interoperable at least with other neighboring countries.  The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Pacific Telecommunication Council (PTC), Pan-Asia, Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) and the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC) all are have on-going projects to support and integrate national information infrastructure projects into regional or global networks[5].  In 1999, Asia began to see the emergence of an intra-regional mesh of telecommunications infrastructure that portents a significant shift from existing reliance on the United States as the hub through which Asian information passed.[6]

Development of national information infrastructures is both a financial and a policy issue.  Much of the capital expenditure on Information Technology (IT) in the US comes from domestic sources.  Asia, however, relies very heavily on external capitalization for infrastructure development.  The United States, China, Japan and India all have key roles to play in shaping Asia’s information infrastructure.  Among the seminar participants there was general agreement that the private sector must lead IT development—it is too capital intensive, too risky, and moves too fast for government bureaucracies to manage effectively.  However, governments do have a key role in supporting information infrastructure development.  That role is to minimally regulate industry and protect consumers.  There was less consensus on the utility of government incentives to encourage investment even though it was acknowledged that commercial interests might not be sufficient to ensure the desired universality of access to information resources. 

The diversity of Asia is reflected in a wide diversity of opinions on issues of censorship and intellectual property rights.  Consideration of India, Thailand, Taiwan and China all seem to indicate that as the level of information development increases so does the acceptance of so-called “Western” notions of freedom of expression and intellectual property rights as useful, if not critical, elements in supporting economic development. 

While Asia is pursuing information infrastructure at a very rapid pace, there are still some daunting realities facing the region. 

 First, despite the growth in capacity and number of information consumers, Asia is still quite small on the world’s cybermap.  The Internet is very expensive for ordinary citizens and information infrastructure remains very sparse and heavily urban-focused.  In a world where numbers of Internet users and e-commerce market share are increasingly the indicators of success, Asia is just entering the market.[7]  Despite the impressive increases in numbers of Internet users, actual penetration of society remains small.  While the percent of population on line in Hong Kong (35 percent), Japan (33 percent) and Singapore (33 percent) are among the worlds highest[8], Indonesia only has 2 percent on line and, under very optimistic projections, China will have less than 7 percent on line by 2005[9]. 

Language is a barrier.
  Even in countries, such as India, where English is one of the official languages and widely taught, the fact that a large percentage of Internet sites are in English limits the utility of the web to many people.  The limited availability of non-Roman script fonts may eventually be overcome by graphics processing technology but currently this remains an obstacle.  Although there is increasing use of local language sites, English will remain the lingua franca of the net for the foreseeable future.  This language dominance is seen by some as further advancing the penetration of traditional society by Western values and culture.  On the other hand, the export success of India’s entertainment industry is one example of how Asians may need not fear direct competition or “cultural evaporation” as a result of Information Age developments. 

Heavy focus on security by both Asian governments and individuals
could hinder electronic market transactions that depend on openness and trust.  In a similar vein, fear of outside exploitation, strong governmental bureaucracies, and the combination of either too strict or non-existent regulations or laws dealing with information processing impede more rapid information infrastructure development by non-domestic investors. 

Despite the opportunities and best efforts of many Asian countries, the developed world has an edge in entering the Information Age which is extremely difficult to overcome.  Economies of scale favor large, multinational firms already familiar with global marketing over local companies still struggling to establish their place in national or regional markets.  As many of Asia’s economies and governments move away from more centralized planning models towards open markets and internet based e-commerce, they face entrepreneurs from the developed world who are accustomed to dealing with market forces and who have a collective experience base that is difficult to replicate.  Also, some of the seminar participants felt there are Asian cultural views on speed, change and consensus which often appear to be at odds with the “24x7x365” attitude of the Web.[10]

Information Age Economics in The Asia-Pacific

While the Asia-Pacific region is culturally, politically and economically diverse, there is a strong, shared interest in using information technology both nationally and regionally to support national development efforts.  While acknowledging the many challenges facing the region as it pursues information development, the seminar participants were generally hopeful that those challenges could be overcome.  Many of the economies are export based and, among leaders in the region, there is an expectation that information technology can allow “leapfrogging” from current backwardness into a position of real competitiveness with respect to the developed world.  Many of the nations in the region also hope to use information technology to reduce the economic and social isolation of large portions of their societies.

E-commerce touches all sectors of the global economy and the Asia-Pacific region is no exception.
However, there are key differences between business cultures in Asia and those of the United States or Europe which may inhibit the rapid growth of e-commerce in Asia.  In short, those differences can be capsulated as follows: In the West, trust resides in rules and standards, in Asia, trust resides in specific persons. 

Asian culture is based more heavily on face-to-face contact; the impersonal Internet may be less appropriate to a “relational” perspective (Asia/Pacific) than to a “contractual” one (the West).  Asian culture focuses more on the process of relationships among people while the West focuses more on achievement of a desired outcome.  The Keiretsu/Chaebol systems of large conglomerates of inter-dependent companies familiar to many Asian cultures is largely absent from the United States.  

Within the defense sector of regional economies, there has been little development of regional/sub-regional standards for defense production.  This applies to both hardware and software; to command and control systems as much as to weapons systems.  In part, this results from having no overarching security organization in the Asia Pacific region.  Current efforts by ASEAN and APEC to develop civilian information infrastructure programs for the region have the potential to provide a great deal of experience in the arena of cooperative setting of standards that has been lacking to date.  If that experience can be transferred to the defense sector of the economy, the region may see significant improvement in intra-regional defense development and production.  On a non-economic level, the experience derived in setting standards for operating civil information infrastructure projects could also have “spill-over” effects in supporting the development of common operating procedures among regional military forces at some distant future date.

Issues of technology sharing loom large in Asia-Pacific economic thinking about the Information Age.  Working with Korea and Japan on joint-venture defense products, US industry has learned that technology transfer is a two way street; each side stands to gain from serendipitous developments.  That is, as the gaining organization applies the transferred technology it often changes the technology in ways that are useful to the country that transferred the technology.  The lesson that technology transfer can be of benefit as well as having risks has not been well understood within the halls of government.  The cross-fertilization between Indian domestic information workers and Indian diasporas working in the United States and Europe is another example of the difficulties facing governments wishing to control technology transfers.   Technology is advancing at a pace that surpasses national governments’ ability to control; export control laws need to be flexible enough to keep up with the conditions of the international marketplace.  Defining the specific technologies and manufacturing techniques that must be protected is a key function of governments throughout the region.  At the same time, such control may be slipping from the hands of national governments due to the openness and multi-nodal nature of the Internet.

As Asian nations pursue the development of e-commerce as a way to level the economic playing field internationally, there are several key issues which need attention:

·        Payment System—Asia needs the electronic monetary instruments to support both buyer and seller.  Those instruments need to provide confidence, convenience, and security of transmission at affordable cost.
·        Taxation policy that does not stifle e-commerce development but also accounts for the revenue requirements of multiple levels of government, domestically and internationally.  Even in the developed nations, the issue of how to tax E-commerce transactions is an on-going, very acrimonious debate.

·        Legal support.  In many Asian nations there are no legal provisions for electronic contracts, guarantees, consumer grievances, etc.

·        Infrastructure.  In addition to the obvious need for information systems infrastructure, Asian countries must also improve their transportation and human resource development infrastructures to take full advantage of the possibilities offered by the Information Age.  It does no good to be able to buy or sell something that cannot be delivered.  Nor can illiterate farmers make even rudimentary use of the written language based Internet.

Security Cooperation in the Information Arena—Three Case Studies

Seminar participants considered the implications of the Information Age for increased cooperation among security organizations in the region through the examination of three activities: 1) the regional response to the Y2K problem, 2) the Asia Pacific Area Network  (APAN), and 3) the Virtual Information Center (VIC) project. 

Global responses, including in Asia, to the Y2K problem provided an excellent example of cooperation and free sharing of information.  In the process of preparing for that event, the depth and impact of system interdependence was spotlighted.  In fact a driving factor in the level of cooperation seen among various Y2K task forces was the recognition that no single company, governmental department or even nation could isolate its computer systems from outside impact.  There can no longer be any doubt: in almost all aspects of interaction, the information age has bound us together so tightly that we must work together or perish separately.

Participants at the seminar identified two key reasons that Y2K was less of a problem than had been expected.  First, a large scale sharing of information and unprecedented transparency occurred among “competitors.”  Banks, government bureaucracies and even military forces understood that they had to work together because of the interdependent nature of their systems.  This led to, however reluctantly, an opening of virtual doors on very sensitive data and information systems, even across national boundaries.  Part of the learning gained in this process was methods to control sensitive information within semi-closed circles.  Mutual trust and respect were built as data was shared and protected. 

The second reason Y2K proved less of a problem than anticipated was that late starters learned from the pioneers.  Because of the open sharing of information, nations and organizations that got a late start in fixing Y2K problems could do as much in the last six months as others had needed years to accomplish.  Those who started later had the benefit of the successes and the inevitable mistakes, false paths, and wrong prioritizations that the pioneers made in their early efforts.

The degree of cooperation and openness evident in the Y2K preparation process begs the questions, “Can we sustain this? or Can this experience be transferred to other transnational problems in the region?”  Consensus among the seminar participants was that it would be very difficult to replicate the Y2K level of cooperation without a date-specific, universally agreed upon threat.  There was some hope expressed that cooperation could be sustained for a while and that it was theoretically possible to develop incentives for cooperation though none were advanced.  It seems to the author of this report that this pessimism resulted from an over emphasis of threat-based thinking and underestimates the imperatives towards cooperation implicit in the region’s consensus on the need to develop a strong, interactive (therefore interdependent) information infrastructure.  The large-scale, multi-national efforts in various telecommunications projects portent close and continued cooperation in a very sensitive area of national capability.

 One effort by the US military to exploit the pervasiveness of the Internet is a project called the Asia Pacific Area Network  (APAN).  APAN is an initiative of the United States military’s Pacific Command (USPACOM) based on the concept of using the internet as a vehicle for communications and cooperation among regional military forces.  The project is still developmental with fielding to be done later in 2000.  APAN aims to side-step the issue of equipment interoperability among potential coalition partners in humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HADR) or peace-keeping operations (PKO) by using the Internet as the common standard for communications.  In addition to allowing immediate, affordable means of communications, APAN also will provide common data structures for HADR/PKO information from the host country to assistance partners.  One of the key issues, as it was for Y2K, is how to protect sensitive information in the Internet environment while ensuring access to that same information by all that need it.  As other nations join the APAN effort, building the network will become in itself a valuable exercise in cooperation and confidence building. 

USPACOM’s Virtual Information Center (VIC) is a program to develop and exploit open source information and infrastructures to support military operations in the region.  Unlike APAN, which is still developmental, the VIC has a history from which to draw experiential lessons. 

The VIC, located at the USPACOM headquarters in Hawaii, consists of a handful of researchers, high-powered PCs and workstations, and access to the Internet.  Its goal is to mine publicly available information sources and to process that data into useful information.  Though primarily used to support US needs, the VIC does provide information to many countries in region.  Since its inception four years ago, the VIC has provided a laboratory for learning about developing and sharing information among HADR/PKO planners.  Two of the key lessons from the VIC are: 

·        In working together on HADR missions, all participants in the operation, which include NGOs, host nation and coalition members, need a common, integrated picture of the disaster.  Cultural, economic and weather information is just as critical as political and military data. 

·        At same time, current organizational cultures resist sharing of information.  NGOs, as well as governments, restrict access to certain information.  Information about plans and intentions are particularly hard to get but especially necessary for effective cooperation—special attention and trust building needs to occur to overcome this natural reluctance to share.  Some organizations, particularly NGOs, may not have thought through the process or philosophy of information sharing which retards their ability to quickly join information sharing networks such as the VIC.  Additionally, responding to requests for information from much larger military organizations can stretch the resources of in-country or staff liaison NGO representatives.  

Towards A Philosophy of Information Sharing:  Implications of the Case Studies.  

From these three case studies and from the seminar discussions, there would appear to be a set of perspectives on information that may assist cooperative efforts in managing or sharing information in a multinational context.

          - Cooperation and sharing must be emphasized, by national leaders, as a public good, crucial to both national and regional security.  Sharing must be seen as a vital activity. 

- Development of an integrated, shared information picture is a collaborative effort that requires understanding of the iterative nature of the process.  No one participant can assume it has all the answers, nor should any participant assume it has nothing to offer.

- Trust and confidence is critical.  Participants need to be convinced that their information is safe from outside scrutiny and from inappropriate exploitation from other participants within the network.  Building trust and confidence in the Information Age is not significantly different that in previous times—an iterative process that builds slowly and fragilely on incremental successes.

- Perceptions of cooperation and sharing as a win/win situation must be based on reality not just public relations “spin.”  

An Emerging Information Paradigm in the Asia Pacific Region? 

The notion of a “New Information Order” is intertwined with an emerging Asia-Pacific understanding or paradigm of how the region might want the Information Age to unfold.  A New Information Order has to do with the idea that the Information Age is a fact; a global phenomenon that generates lop-sided growth with heavy advantages to those nations or elements within nations with the greatest information capabilities.  Considerations of moral fairness and political/economic stability suggest that the impact of those advantages be rethought and filtered through a conscious governmental policy process that accounts for the greater good beyond narrow profit/loss issues.  In the New Information Order, economics will be the prime determinant of political legitimacy and information technology will be the basis of economic competitiveness.

India was seen as good case study of an Asian country moving into the Information Age.  It has a number of critical characteristics that provide a strong foundation for rapid growth:            
Democratic government
            English language base
            High level of education within portions of the country
            Successful entrepreneur base
Interconnectedness of overseas Indians with domestic Information Age sector that provides critical access to and synergy among key technologies.

A final component of the New Information Order is the idea that power, as well as information sharing, is a reality that must be accounted for in the international order.  As in the rest of the world, the Information Age in Asia is blurring the boundaries among political entities—nations, ethnic groups, special interests and private organizations.  New modes of community and identity are being developed which will change the nature of the security debate; Westphalian assumptions about the nation as the bedrock of international activity will be modified, not replaced, by arguments for an increased international voice by a growing panoply of actors.

What then are the components of what may be an emerging information paradigm in the Asia Pacific region? 

- First and foremost the recognition that the Asia’s future is tied to the Information Age; countries within the region must develop their information resources to be viable players in the coming decades.  There is a guarded optimism that, despite a huge gap in information technology capabilities, Asia has a narrow window of opportunity to “leap-frog” to a position of real strength vis-à-vis developed nations.

- Soft Power counts.  The Information Age is about ideas as much as technology and Asia must court “mind-share”[11] at home and in the developed world if the region is to protect its rich cultural diversity and share in the economic bounty promised by globalization and E-commerce.  In countering the negative cultural impacts of the Internet, societies must rely on moral suasion and education.  On the international scene, skillful use of information resources is becoming as important as the skillful use of physical resources.

- Private markets dominate, as they should (in the opinion of most seminar participants), information technology and information infrastructure development.  The role of government is to provide law and order to the potential chaos of Information Age developments.  There was substantial agreement among seminar participants that the political basis of authoritarian governments would be threatened by the heavy focus on individual freedom and choice inherent in Information Age developments.

- Global access must be combined and balanced with local content.  Globalization of economies demands increasing openness and access to markets—much of which will be in English and dominated by developed countries.  At the same time, language barriers, cultural preferences and desires to sustain social structures demand an increasing portion of the information content be in local languages and presented in culturally acceptable ways.  Without culturally sensitive content, the Internet has the potential to undercut social structures built over centuries with unpredictable consequences.  Without access to global markets and global data sources, large areas of Asia run the risk of becoming “virtual colonies” of the developed world or, perhaps even worse, becoming totally irrelevant to the world market and the beneficial developments it offers.

- The traditional Asian focus on consensus and cooperative approaches can provide a sound foundation for regional and global models of information development.  While nations have their individual information technology development plans, there is a growing complexity of bi-lateral and multilateral cooperation efforts.  At the moment the key uncertainty is whether such consensus programs can work within required Internet decision cycle speeds—the “Net” never sleeps and never waits for slow-movers to catch up.

  Implications for Security Planners

The Information Age touches all aspects of security—political, economic, social and military.  At the same time, since we are only in the very early stages of this new era of near-universal access to information and information processing power, the full implications remain obscure.  Nonetheless, there are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from current and projected trends.  Some of the implications are minor, almost bureaucratic; others are monumental.

While the private sector must take the lead in developing and funding infrastructure, governments must take the lead in setting policies that support information infrastructure development and at the same time protect vital social, cultural and economic interests threatened by domination of the Information Age by developed countries.  The combined weight of newly emerging information-based threats to those interests may force national decision makers to shift priorities away from ways to deal with traditional threats against military forces or territorial borders towards ways to deal with “soft power” based concerns.  This would seem to have great implications for military force structure and budget planners.  

While understanding that Asia does not have, and probably does not need, a NATO-like security organization, there are valuable lessons that might be learned from the way NATO has developed its security cooperation, particularly in technical arenas.  NATO is characterized by multiple layers, many sub-organizations, committees, and councils; and persistence over decades towards a commonly held belief in enabling cooperation through developing and implementing standards and procedures that overcome national preferences.  Some Asian nations may need to evaluate their current focus on national self-reliance as a foundation for national sovereignty in light of the greater value of cooperative, equitable interdependence.

The outcome of e-commerce competition will play an important role in world economic stability E-commerce asymmetries and resulting economic asymmetries may create challenges to internal stability for countries within the region.  Security planners need to spend more time and resources evaluating the potential, timing and impact of such instability.  Growing interdependence also means that social or political instability is no longer purely a domestic security concern.  As globalization progresses, every country will increasingly be concerned with the internal economic and political health of its neighbors, its friends and its export markets.

Hackers represent a threat to each individual nation and to the region as a whole.  With the spread of computers and networks comes the spread of viruses.  Coping with this threat will necessitate a wide range of changes.  Laws, domestic and international, will need to account for the realities of hacker methodologies.  Police, courts and military forces will have to cooperate both among themselves and with social and commercial organizations to a much greater extent than in the past.  While less developed states may see asymmetric advantages in the ability of individual hackers to cause wide-spread damage to the information systems of developed countries, governments may find that, like biological weapons, the hacker viruses may prove uncontrollable, returning easily to the home of their maker via the World Wide Web.

Information technology and the emerging Information paradigm in Asia will redefine strategic security readiness in all major areas of national life:  political, economic, social and military.  Without a specific, immediate and large-scale threat, cooperation is extremely difficult to sustain.  Likewise, the speed and “24x7x365”[12] nature of the Information Age implies that security planning may have to follow the road of business where ad hoc responses and high-risk, low certainty preemptive actions are increasingly necessary.  The ability to handle large volumes of real-time data may become as important as the ability to rapidly move physical resources in response to crises.

The cooperative sharing of information among nations and organizations will be our best defense against the global/transnational threats of the future.  Efforts such as the Y2K preparation, APAN and the VIC may provide valuable lessons in managing cooperative information programs.

Notions of fairness in access to technology and information will color the debate on how to best cooperate for common causes.  In the extreme, perceptions of a win/lose situation will cause failure to cooperate across a spectrum of issues not related to technology.  For technically advanced nations, such as the US, this may increase the political risks involved in coalition leadership.

While the development of national and regional information infrastructures will help communications at the highest echelons of government and improve cooperation in non-traditional military operations, the Information Age will make operational interoperability even more difficult because of the plethora of proprietary systems being fielded.  It is incumbent on the high technology partner in potential coalition groupings (primarily the US) to ensure that its systems are designed with “legacy” (earlier-generation) systems compatibility and availability considered.

Military procurement will not only have to compete for funds with domestic concerns such as information infrastructure development, but also, within military forces, key decisions will need to be made on relative allocations for Information Age type expenses versus traditional expenses.  Military recruitment for talent will become more difficult as the demand for skilled information labor increases within the civilian (international) market.  The increasing complexities of Information Age weapon systems will decrease traditional training requirements as “fire-and-forget” weapons and self-diagnosing machinery is widely deployed. 

Areas for further Study and Consideration

There remain a number of unanswered questions regarding the information age, regional security and prospects for regional security cooperation.  Each of these questions warrants further discussion and information sharing.  The effort to address these questions could, itself, become a cooperative security exercise.  Some of the questions include

·       How do we sustain cooperation without an overarching threat?

·       How do we develop and field multi-level security systems that balance needed transparency  
      and speed of operation with valid requirements for national secrets and organizational

·       How do we reduce the costs of interoperability to reduce the gap between information haves 
     and have-nots?  Is interoperability a desired condition?

  ·     How do we expand information cooperation on security issues to include non-governmental  actors such as NGOs, the media and individuals while sustaining notions of national sovereignty?


Throughout the seminar, several themes recurred.  The Asia Pacific region is rapidly entering the Information Age but with varying degrees of success among and within nations.  Second, the Information Age holds real promise for economic, political and social development if the negative aspects of threats to traditional values and equity issues can be managed.  Third, cooperation, particularly in very sensitive information areas, will be difficult to develop and harder to sustain without agreement on a specific threat.  Finally, the Information Age poses real challenges to military planners, far beyond the technical aspects of war-fighting, which have not been well considered.

There is a growing realization among Asia Pacific leaders that the future lays in the Information Age.  That realization has brought with it considerable fear of renewed exploitation by advanced nations and considerable optimism that the region has, for the first time in living memory, an opportunity to make very rapid developmental progress.  For many Asians, this indeed may be “the best of times, the worst of times.”


[1] David Gompert, “Information Technology and Military Capabilities,” in Right Makes Right:  Freedom and Power in the Information Age, National Defense University, McNair Paper 59, NDU Press, Washington DC, 1998.
[2] In order to maintain the APCSS policy of non-attribution, this report is an amalgam of the ideas and perspectives of all the participants with the author bearing sole responsibility for any errors of commission or omission.  
 [3] CyberAtlas, Asia, “IDC Sees Internet Boom Time for Asia Pacific” November 23, 1999 as found on the Internet at
[4] CyberAtlas, Asia, “Asia-Pac Net User Base to Grow 422% by 2005,” November 8, 1999 as found on the Internet at:
[5] See Appendix 2 for selected list of Asia-Pacific information infrastructure development Internet sites.
[6] Robert Cohen, “Moving Toward a Non-U.S.-centric International Internet,” Communications of the ACM, New York, Jun 1999.
[7]  G. Pierre Goad, “Asia Struggles to Advance in Global Telecom Race—Rapid Gains Elsewhere Signal Need for Change.” Asian Wall Street Journal, New York, March 19, 1999, p. 3.
[8] CyberAtlas, “Internet Heads for 1 Billion Users,” as found on the Internet at:,1323,5911_326181,00.html.
[9] CyberAtlas, Asia, “Asia-Pac Net User Base to Grow 422% by 2005,” as found on the Internet at:
[10]  “24x7x365” refers to the notion that activity goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year—there are no time-off in the Internet world.
[11]   “Mind share” is an Internet, e-commerce term derived from the tradition notion of “market share.”  “Mind share” connotes that a person’s mental attention, like his fiscal resources are finite and that capturing a portion of that mental attention has commercial implication (a person will buy only when they are aware of the product for sale.) 
[12] 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

  Asia Pacific Information Infrastructure Development  
Selected Internet Sites

Asian Internet Interconnection Initiatives.

Asia-Pacific Economic Council (APEC) Working Group of Telecommunications

Asia Pacific Information Infrastructure (APII) Cooperation Center.

Asia-Pacific Telecommunity.

CyberAtlas (For economic data).

Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) Telecommunications and Information Industry Forum (PTIIF).

Pacific Telecommunications Council (PTC).



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