ICT regulation should support innovation – not stifle it

July 31st, 2015, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

 

hans-lead-ed-feature-imageThe latest edition of  the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)’s comprehensive report on global ICT regulatory developments, Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2015, reveals a fast-evolving ICT landscape, as devices and services proliferate, broadband connectivity becomes increasingly pervasive, and the hyper-connected world of the “‘internet of everything”  becomes a reality.

The report confirms that future network traffic will increasingly be driven by machine-to-machine (M2M) traffic generated by billions of connected devices, products and sensors, with M2M communications over mobile cellular networks already emerging as the fastest-growing ICT service in terms of traffic. In total, one billion different kinds of wireless IoT devices are expected to be shipped during this year, up 60% from 2014 figures, to reach a predicted installed base of 2,8-billion connected devices by end of the year. As many as 25-billion networked devices are predicted to be connected by 2020, driven largely by consumer-connected entities and followed by manufacturing, utilities and transportation.

The major problem with this fast growing ICT world are the regulations;  they are simply not keeping up.  In many instance political interference stifles regulators, often to the point that by the time they have agreed on a draft regulation, the ICT world has long overtaken them.

Regulators and businesses alike have to navigate the issues surrounding so-called “fourth-generation”  ICT regulations. The ITU report states that characterised by greater complexity and cross-sectoral implications, fourth-generation regulation attempts to come to grips with the enormous social and economic disruption ICTs are bringing in their wake. The report recommends flexible, light-touch regulation, and a recognition of the rights of both businesses and consumers in defining new frameworks for an emerging global digital environment.

In January 2015, the number of global active social media accounts reached over 2,07-billion, with active mobile social accounts representing 81% of that total. With active social media users spending an average of nearly two hours 25 minutes per day on social platforms, the economic impact of the time spent on social media has not been lost on marketers and advertisers.

But while the blurring of lines between the physical and digital world is creating new economic opportunities, it also raises a host of new social questions and challenges for regulators.

Every hour of every day, over one hundred million photos are uploaded to Facebook: every second, one hour’s worth of video footage is uploaded onto YouTube. Google is estimated to process well over a petabyte of data every single day – equivalent to 100 times the data stored in the largest library in the world, the US Library of Congress.

With the cost of computing (both processing and storage) falling and the speed and ease with which data can be transferred rising with ever-faster processor speeds, applications that draw on big data are proliferating.

The report outlines eight principles of  big data implementation, and recognises big data’s power as a driver of innovation. But it also warns of the potential downside to the dramatic increase in the collection and storage of data, including personal data, and notes that regulators will need to come to grips fast with both the positive and negative applications in order to maintain consumer trust.

It becoming evident that regulators need to pay serious attention to how they will support innovation and not slow it down. It is also clear that business needs to play a greater role in regulation and that governments should stand back and allow regulators and business to work as a team to ensure that the benefits of ICT are available to and shared by all.

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