Review of e-commerce legislation harmonization in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [UNCTAD/DTL/STICT/2013/1]

The harmonization of e-commerce laws can facilitate development in ASEAN in several key areas.

[ Galexia Dots ]

Trade facilitation

Harmonization of laws and associated requirements for information and documentation can play an important role in facilitating trade through mechanisms such as the ASEAN Single Window system, which enables the submission of transit-related regulatory requirements at a single entry point.


Outsourcing remains a key growth industry in ASEAN. Opportunities for outsourcing can be facilitated by the development of appropriate privacy laws (so that data containing personal information can be received from countries with strong privacy regulatory requirements) and by the development of best practice cybercrime legislation, to build confidence among potential clients.

E-government initiatives

The area of electronic government is considered to be critical in ASEAN and was a priority of the e-ASEAN Framework Agreement.

Box 2. Chapter 9 of the e-ASEAN Framework Agreement

Member States shall utilize the ICT to improve the provision and delivery of services by the government.

Member States shall take steps to provide a wide range of government services and transactions on-line by usage of ICT applications to facilitate linkages between public and private sector and to promote transparency.

Member States shall work towards enhancing inter-governmental cooperation by: (a) Promoting the use of electronic means in their procurement of goods and services; and (b) Facilitating freer flow of goods, information and people within ASEAN.

Source: e-ASEAN Framework Agreement,

Administrative policies and attitudes can sometimes act as an obstacle to the adoption of new technologies. However, well-designed e-government policies can facilitate the take-up of new technologies, through the impact of procurement practices on market developments.


The role of electronic payments systems in facilitating electronic and mobile commerce is critical, and this is an area that was identified in the Cebu workshop and in the surveys as requiring further guidance. Although the majority of financial services regulation is managed at the national level, harmonization of regulations is important to facilitate cross-border transactions.

Cloud computing

The growth of cloud computing illustrates how technological developments can present legal and regulatory challenges not contemplated a few years ago, such as the possible mass relocation of user data to server farms located in foreign jurisdictions and the ability to reduce dependency on the deployment of end-user software applications.

Social networking

Internet penetration in ASEAN has partly been driven by the growth in popularity of social networking services.

These interactive services represent a step-up from basic email and website use, and have opened the door to a range of e-commerce opportunities. However, laws have not always kept up with social networking business models, and amended legislation in areas like privacy and cybercrime are now required.