As with so many other industries – medical tourism, electric cars, phablets – Asia is widely considered to be the future of the Internet. There is, however, one very big “if”: If only the continent’s governments can get over their tendencies toward overregulation and censorship.

Almost half the world’s Web users live in the region. Asia boasts some of the world’s fastest broadband speeds, as well as the fastest rate of growth in mobile broadband.

Its share of the global e-commerce market stands at one-third and growing.

So why are Asian governments working so hard to sabotage this glorious rise? In its Freedom on the Net 2013 report, Freedom House ranked 12 Asian nations as “not free” or “partly free.”

Only two – Japan and the Philippines – qualified as “free.” Half of those nations slipped in the rankings from last year, with democratic India plunging the furthest of any country in the world. It’s now tied with autocratic Cambodia.

The Internet is also a potential catalyst for countries hoping that innovation and entrepreneurialism will one day drive their economies. If Asia misses this opportunity, its own leaders will bear part of the blame.

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