March 14, 2022
In July 2021, the Government published a policy paper on “Digital Regulation: Driving growth and unlocking innovation”. Through this Plan for Digital Regulation, the Government invited views on:
- the Government’s strategic objectives and vision;
- the guiding principles for better digital regulation as set out in the Plan;
- coherence and coordination between digital regulators, including the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF);
- challenges and opportunities across the current regulatory environment; and
- how the Government can best use external expertise to inform its approach.
The Government has now published a summary of the key themes that emerged from the call for views. The Government received feedback from 51 individuals and organisations, including a range of companies, industry organisations, academics, think tanks, and civil society groups. Since the closure of the call for views, the Government says that it has continued the conversation, meeting stakeholders, and convening roundtables to further understand the range of perspectives on the issues.
- a clear vision with measurable outcomes: overall, stakeholders agreed with the core aims and objectives in the Plan, although some organisations from both civil society and industry suggested that it would merit the inclusion of additional objectives, e.g., growth and productivity, safeguarding consumers and citizens, environmental protection, and equality; some stakeholders expressed concerns that the Government will prioritise growth and innovation objectives over how to encourage a flourishing democratic society;
- enhancing access to cutting-edge expertise: most stakeholders said that expertise was essential in understanding the potential impact of regulations and suggested that further steps should be taken to enhance technical expertise and understanding, e.g., using secondments, increasing academic fellowships and creating a shared pool of resources to provide expertise that could potentially be run by the DRCF, and working across regulatory bodies on technology-specific issues;
- flexible and innovative approaches to regulation: some stakeholders said that traditional regulatory approaches were not always suitable for governing innovative new technologies and that new approaches are crucial to the UK’s approach to digital governance; many favoured an outcomes-based regulatory approach, i.e., where regulators focus on the achievement of positive outcomes, rather than prescriptive processes targeting specific technologies;
- championing the UK’s role on the international stage: a range of respondents said that there was an opportunity for the UK to demonstrate global leadership in proportionate, innovation-friendly digital regulation; they also highlighted the importance or regulatory cooperation and said that regulatory diplomacy will be crucial;
- ensuring regulators are effective, coherent and coordinated: while most stakeholders agreed that regulatory coordination would be an integral element of effective digital regulation, there was less consensus around how this could be practically achieved; the DRCF was largely welcomed, but some said more clarity on how regulators work together via the DRCF was needed and asked for more transparency and accountability for regulators; and
- ensuring a wide range of voices shape the rules that govern digital technologies: most respondents were clear that engagement with industry, consumers and civil society is key to creating regulation that is future-proofed and builds trust and innovation.
The Government says that this is just the start of the conversation on digital regulation. It will be publishing a further update on its progress delivering on the Plan as part of the Digital Strategy. This will outline how it is developing its pro-innovation regulatory framework, building its evidence base, exploring new avenues for cutting-edge digital regulation, and working with regulators to ensure the institutional landscape is fit for purpose. To access the summary of responses, click here.