Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in one of the first discussions on the maritime Silk Road being promoted by President Xi Jinping. I wrote up the two points I made in my five minutes. The second point described in the excerpt below suggests that governments and operators get behind the UN ESCAP Information Superhighway initiative that we’ve been working on with them since 2010.
It is possible to place security teams on trains and ships to thwart the attacks of extremists. But it is not practical to guard fibre optic cables, be they placed on the ocean floor or buried underground. Security precautions can be taken at vulnerable points such as where the cables come ashore, but that will not be enough. Cable landing stations can be hardened, but there is not much that one can do about a powerful earthquake snapping a cable. What is needed is redundancy, whereby any link that is severed can be routed around. A mesh network with land and sea components is the solution.
ESCAP has made the installation of conduits or cables along the interconnected transportation systems made up by the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway Network one of its priorities. The new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank should fund terrestrial and undersea cable connectivity in tandem with road, rail and ocean connectivity.
The sooner the region’s governments and telecom operators get behind the Asian Information Superhighway, the sooner will the multi-faceted connectivity envisaged by President Xi become a sound foundation for an Asian resurgence that includes large continental countries as well as islands like ours, littoral countries as well as land-locked ones.