Singapore keenest in Asia on cross-border data flows

Singapore retained its third place in the overall global ranking in terms of openness to cross-border data flows, coming only behind Japan and the United Kingdom. 

Also, according to a report from Salesforce, Indonesia is among G20 economies that have improved the most since the last report. It is now ranked 13th, up from 15th in 2021.

The analysis shows that ASEAN economies have made steady progress in enabling cross-border data flows as a result of embracing the following open data transfer policies.

In Singapore, the government has signed Digital Economy Agreements with a number of countries including Chile, New Zealand, and South Korea, as well as Australia, the European Union, and the United Kingdom to promote the free flow of data.

In Indonesia, the Data Protection Law, introduced in 2022, has provided clear mechanisms for cross-border data transfers and clarity over permissible types of data to be transferred.

Regional agreements such as The ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) are being developed to facilitate cross-border data flows.

Countries that embrace open cross-border data flow are more likely to grow their digital economies. Cross-border e-commerce has had a 45-fold increase throughout the last decade, reaching an estimated $2.7 trillion in 2023. 

When data moves across borders, it increases competition, enhances the opportunities for a country’s people, communities, and businesses — including job-creating and knowledge-sharing — and positively impacts a country’s overall economy.

“In ASEAN, economies like Singapore are reaping the benefits with its strong cross-border data policies and conducive regulatory environment. This sets the benchmark for other ASEAN nations,” said Boon Poh Mok, director of government affairs and public policy for Salesforce in Southeast Asia and Greater China. 

“It is promising to see economies like Indonesia moving in the right trajectory, with the introduction of new laws that promote cross-border data flows,” he said. “Supporting the movement of data across borders unlocks the region’s potential and competitiveness, and will help to drive the region’s overall growth”

To help countries improve their cross-border data transfers and optimise for economic growth, the report has provided a list of key policy recommendations.

  • Developing global standards by harmonising privacy laws and aligning on principles for government access to data in the cloud,
  • Expanding digital economy agreements, such as free trade agreements, to include cross-border data provisions,
  • Making trusted data sharing frameworks the default,
  • Accelerating the digitisation of businesses and government services, and
  • Clearly defining data sovereignty in a way that is global and interoperable, along with standards to manage it.