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Elon Musk wrote article for China’s internet regulator, hinted at aged care robots

Asia in Brief Elon Musk has written an article for the Cyberspace Administration of China’s flagship magazine.

A translation of the article published by Beijing Channel – a blog operated by Yang Liu, a journalist with state-controlled organ Xinhua – reveals that Musk’s missive was mostly self-promotion.

The rocketry, AI, energy, automotive, tequila and (maybe) social media entrepreneur touched on familiar talking points about the need for humanity to colonize Mars and transition to electric cars fueled by solar and wind energy.

“Chinese companies will be a force to be reckoned with in the cause of energy innovation,” Musk opined in the article.

He also touched on Tesla’s humanoid robot, which he said uses that form so it can fit into a world designed for people-sized entities and human hands. Musk predicted sales of the machines will accelerate so that “Perhaps in less than a decade, people will be able to buy a robot for their parents as a birthday gift.”

That’s a sentence that will be well-received in China, as the nation’s aged care policies emphasize elderly people remaining in their homes and being cared for by family. With many Chinese families finding it hard to get ahead, the prospect of automated home help may have appeal if it more family members can go out to work.

That Musk appeared in the magazine at all is significant, as it demonstrates Chinese authorities approve of his positions. Few other foreign entrepreneurs enjoy that position and some Chinese innovators have had their access to public forums limited in recent months.

The Tesla CEO made no mention of his planned purchase of Twitter.

– Simon Sharwood

Vietnam to spend 10% of R&D funds on infosec

The government of Vietnam has laid out its infosec strategy to maintain a satisfactory Global Cybersecurity Index ranking. At its core is a prioritization of home-grown network information security products.

As part of the effort, cybersecurity funding is slated to make up at least ten percent of the country’s expenditure on science, technology, digital transformation and IT applications.

At minimum annually, the country will organize drills and inspections of incident response to its IT systems.

Furthermore, the government is developing emergency response teams in 11 areas critical to security. They include transport, energy, natural resources and environment, information, health, finance, banking, defense, security, social order and safety, urban areas, and the Government’s direction and administration.

Vietnam jumped 25 places between 2019 and 2020, hitting seventh in the Asia-Pacific region, fourth in ASEAN and 25th globally. The government said it will now strive to stay between 25 and 30 in the global ranking.

Philippine telcos make competing allegations of anticompetitive behavior

Philippines-based and China Telecom-backed Dato Telecommunity lashed out at its rivals last week for alleged anticompetitive behavior – accusations which have led it to file a complaint with the country’s antitrust watchdog.

“Interconnection is an essential component of the telecommunications industry as it allows interoperability and exchange of calls, SMS, and other information from one network to another. As such, our Competition Enforcement Office (CEO) is now evaluating the merits of Dito’s complaints,” responded the Philippine Competition Commission.

The Commission said it would decide whether to give the complaint “due course” in ten days’ time.

Dito has accused both PLDT and Globe Telecom of not letting Dito subscribers call on their networks, reported Nikkei Asia

In response, Globe has accused Dito of being rife with fraudulent calls and asked the National Telecommunications Commission to fine Dito $11.2 million.

“An average of 1,000 fraudulent calls – identified as international in origin but masked as local calls – are allowed to pass through Dito’s network to Globe users every day in violation of interconnect rules,” said Globe, according to state-sponsored media.

Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano reportedly said that his company also faced fraudulent calls, and the calls in question by Globe were not from Dito.

Australia deletes COVID-19 app that only found two cases in two years

Australia’s government has deleted the COVIDsafe app after it proved woefully ineffective.

Health Minister Mark Butler last week claimed the app found only two positive COVID-19 cases and 17 close contacts that were not found by manual contact tracers.

The last upload of data from users to the National COVIDSafe Data Store that backs the app occurred in May 2021, and authorities have not accessed the data since January 2022.

The app cost over AU$21 million ($14.6 million) to develop, maintain, and operate. Plenty of that went to Amazon Web Services, which hosted its back end.

– Simon Sharwood

Korean manufacturers ‘enthusiastically slashing prices’ for memory

Analyst firm TrendForce has noticed sharp drops in the price of memory.

“Korean manufacturers have significantly increased their willingness to compromise on pricing in order to stimulate buying from distributors and customers, leading to a steady expansion of falling prices,” the firm stated last week. “In addition to Korean manufacturers enthusiastically slashing prices, low-priced chips from the spot market are also circulating in the market.”

TrendForce believes suppliers in other nations “have no choice but to follow suit and fervently reduce pricing for sales.”

The result will be drops of between 13 and 18 percent for DRAM – especially DDR3.

Further falls of up to eight percent are forecast for Q4, with DDR4 prices starting to fall too as production volumes increase.

– Simon Sharwood

Afghanistan’s top mobile carrier sold

South Africa’s MTN Group, the largest operator of mobile networks in Africa, has revealed it sold its operations in Afghanistan. MTN Afghanistan’s 2.3 million-plus customer base means it is the nation’s top mobile carrier.

MTN Group said it’s agreed to a $35 million offer for the operation.

The sale will mean MTN Group has divested all its operations in the Middle East – a region it once saw as a growth opportunity but has now quit to focus on African nations.

– Simon Sharwood

In other news …

Our Asian coverage from last week included news of layoffs at Alibaba, which also launched a carbon-counting app to encourage customers to make more environmentally conscious shopping choices – and also buy more stuff from Alibaba.

Google Cloud showed confidence in regional growth by expanding into Malaysia, Thailand, and New Zealand, although on an uncertain timeline.

China’s Cyberspace Administration cracked down on promotion of cryptocurrency and warned of online scams targeting the nation’s youth.

Also in China, reports suggest execs at China’s top chipmaking fund have been accused of corruption. Whether the charges are sincere, or simply reflect political frustration with slow progress in China’s chipmaking industry, is a matter of considerable speculation.

Taiwanese iPhone parts supplier Pegatron denied reports that Chinese authorities had imposed a customs blockade that prevented parts reaching its mainland factories, as tensions in the Taiwan Strait continued.

Allegations that ZTE found a new way to sell to Iran. ZTE should really know better, having previously paid the biggest fine in US history for the same action.

Australia announced experiments to determine if a central bank digital currency has any useful applications – a live question down under, where payment systems reform allows instant peer-to-peer payments. ®