Parliament Sitting on 6 February 2018
QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
*20. Dr Tan Wu Meng: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information what measures are being taken to ensure Singapore is well-positioned to be a global centre for data housing and the provision of value-add services for data.
With the world becoming more digitally connected, global data flows have surged. Cross-border data flows generate significant value and growth to economies. Singapore, like other countries, is also tapping on this opportunity to grow our digital economy, by strengthening our position as a key digital connectivity hub.
2 According to Cushman & Wakefield’s Data Center Risk Index, Singapore is the Asia-Pacific region’s most robust market for data centres. Singapore holds half of Southeast Asia’s data centre capacity, and is a major Asia-Pacific hub for submarine cables, with 19 cable systems that connect us directly to more than 33 countries.
3 We will strengthen our digital connectivity hub status further. Government agencies such as the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) are working together to attract more investments in critical infrastructure such as data centres and submarine cables. To strengthen our international connectivity, IMDA is doing more to facilitate the landing of major submarine cables in Singapore, while EDB is engaging global technology companies and leading data centre players to invest in data centres here. IMDA and EDB are also working with JTC Corporation (JTC) to plan for sufficient land and power in data centre clusters to support quality data centre investments.
4 It is also important that we continue to research into new solutions that can strengthen our status as a digital connectivity hub. For instance, IMDA’s green data centre programme uses new technologies to improve the energy efficiency of our data centres. This is essential in our tropical climate, and will help us meet the growing demand for data centres that are more energy-efficient.
5 In order to drive our Digital Economy ambitions, we need to ensure that we continue to be a forward-looking jurisdiction for the use of data. Domestically, we have a robust yet balanced framework for the protection and management of data – especially personal data. This helps to engender consumer trust and confidence in organisations’ handling of data. In turn, this trust facilitates and enables more innovative uses of data by companies, and allows society to derive greater benefits from the responsible use of data. This is why we are working on rolling out a Data Protection (DP) Trustmark certification scheme for companies that adopt best practices in managing personal data. We are also currently reviewing the Personal Data Protection Act to further develop our regulations to support our data ambitions.
6 Internationally, we also recognise that data-related economic activities often straddle borders, as services – particularly digital services – can easily scale regionally if not globally. Therefore, we are also actively working with other countries and participating in international data protection fora to shape standards to facilitate responsible and seamless data flows across borders. For instance, in 2017, Singapore submitted our Notice of Intent to participate in the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System and the APEC Privacy Recognition for Processors System – or the APEC CBPR and PRP. In time to come, organisations which have received the relevant certifications will be able to transfer data to similarly certified organisations overseas seamlessly. Within ASEAN, there is also good progress being made in recognising the value of balanced policies so as to reap the benefits of data in the digital economy.
7 Mister Speaker, in conclusion, we will continue to review our policies and regulations to strengthen Singapore’s global digital connectivity hub status.