These individual pressures have to be balanced with the needs of companies. To effectively scale, firms are increasingly interested in building infrastructure that does not always match geographic boundaries of countries. Citizen data and information of all sorts can be moved across borders and firms generally desire more movement rather than less. Businesses have strong reputational reasons for wanting to protect customer information. Governments, of course, are deeply concerned about protecting the rights of their own citizens and the security of their countries. Officials have to balance the sometimes competing demands of business and consumer privacy or business and national security issues. Toss into this volatile mix rapidly changing technology and a legal structure that moves on a much slower timescale and it becomes clear why rules on managing data flows in Asia has started to fragment.
Overall, the review of policy at the domestic level shows that governments have not yet figured out the best approach for creating supportive and enabling frameworks for digital trade and e-commerce. To date, much of the official response has been fragmented between ministries and agencies, with little coordination. Digital trade is unlike many other sectors—it cuts across an increasingly wide swath of the economy and regulatory policies in one area often has knock-on or unintended consequences in other areas. It is also rapidly evolving, which is making it difficult for government officials to address. If governments are too far out in front, too prescriptive or too forward leaning, they risk cutting off new sources of innovation and growth. They may unintentionally box in specific technologies or platforms. Yet it can be very difficult to think about regulating for outcomes, since it requires bureaucrats to have a visionary sense of the future that few individuals are likely to have. Creating digital economy policies at the domestic level, in any case, is probably not the best or most effective way to create sensible regulations. The digital economy does not recognize national boundaries. It does not logically stop at a customs border. Hence, the more efficient and effective way to manage digital policies is at the regional or international level.