DCMS publish Plan for Digital Regulation to support innovation
Building on the March 2021 ‘Ten Tech Priorities’ the Plan for Digital Regulation outlines at a high level how the Government will strive to achieve a balance between enabling innovation in digital tech while ensuring protections for society and fundamental rights.
What does the Plan say?
The Plan for Digital Regulation first defines digital regulation as ‘the range of regulatory tools that government, regulators, businesses, and other bodies use to manage the impact that digital technologies and activities can have on individuals, companies, the economy and society.’
For the Government, digital regulation includes norms, self-regulation, statutory codes of conduct, and rules in primary legislation. Examples included in the plan are the UK’s Data Protection Regime and Online Safety Bill.
The plan also contains key principles which the Government believes policymakers should follow when crafting digital regulation:
- Principle 1 - Actively promote innovation: removing unnecessary regulations and burdens while considering whether non-regulatory measures are more appropriate and, if not, ensuring that regulation is outcomes focused, backed by robust evidence and considering the effects on innovation.
- Principle 2 - Achieve forward looking and coherent outcomes: acknowledging the interconnectedness of regulatory regimes and ensuring new regulation minimises contradictions, undue burdens or overlaps with existing frameworks.
- Principle 3 - Exploit opportunities and address challenges in the international arena: building in international considerations from the start to consider existing global obligations and how digital technical standards can support domestic rulemaking.
techUK is encouraged to see that the Plan clearly states how ‘digital technologies and activities demand a distinct regulatory approach’ given the ‘distinctive features which make digital businesses and applications unique and innovative’.
This focus sees the plan build on a growing discussion within Government and UK regulators around innovation enabling regulation.
Any regulatory system must seek to balance the prevention of harms to consumers and the public while also enabling businesses to innovate and create new products that ultimately will bring consumer and public benefit in the future. At the heart of this balance is a tension between the need for regulatory action against existing or past harms and any potential trade off against future consumer benefits that may be lost due to premature regulation.
Enabling innovation and striking the right balance between harm prevention while also supporting the development of products and services that deliver future consumer benefits means making sure regulatory interventions are proportionately targeted and risk-based while also enabling coordination across the economy so that innovation at the boundaries of sectors can be enabled. The principles set out in this plan make a good start, however how these are put into practice will be key.
Making the plan a reality
techUK supports the principles and approach taken which clearly shows ambitions to create a regulatory environment that enables innovation. However, one of the biggest challenges will be how to put these principles into action to achieve a joined-up approach domestically and internationally across regulators and government. The plan references early efforts to achieve this such as the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum and DCMS’s work with global partners through the G7 Digital Declaration.
There is much to be supportive of within this plan, including the ambitions to support emerging technologies and acknowledgement of how innovation should be at the heart of regulation and techUK will continue to work with the team at DCMS to dig into the detail and bring in insights from the sector so this Plan can be a success.
DCMS is looking to continue the conversation on how they develop and shape their approach towards future regulation and are calling for input from a broad range of stakeholders on their Plan.
If you would like any further information on how techUK will be responding please get in touch with [email protected] and you can also share thoughts directly with the DCMS team before 28 September via [email protected].
Responding to the announcement of the Plan for Digital Regulation Julian David, CEO of techUK said:
"Creating a framework for digital regulation that promotes innovation is a global challenge. If the UK can get this right, we can drive discussions at the international level and build on our reputation as a leading digital economy.
"The Plan for Digital Regulation is a strong start and shows the Government’s commitment to creating a coordinated, proportionate and innovation-focused regulatory system. We look forward to working with Government in making this Plan a reality by building a partnership with the sector to dig into the detail and turn these strong core principles into a forward-looking framework that reinforces the UK’s position as a top tier destination for technology companies."
As Associate Director for Policy Neil leads techUK's domestic policy development in the UK. In this role he regularly engages with UK and Devolved Government Ministers, senior civil servants and members of the UK’s Parliaments with the aim of supporting government and industry to work together to make the UK the best place to start, scale and develop technology companies. Neil also acts as a spokersperson for techUK on UK policy in the media and at Parliamentary Committees.
Neil joined techUK in 2019 to lead on techUK’s input and engagement with Government on the UK-EU Brexit trade deal negotiations, as well as leading on economic policy. He has a background in the UK Parliament and in social research and holds a masters degree in Comparative Public Policy from the University of Edinburgh and an undergraduate degree in International Politics from City, University of London.
- [email protected]
Julian David is the CEO of techUK, the leading technology trade association that aims to realise the positive outcomes of what digital technology can achieve through innovation and collaboration, and serves on its board of directors.
Julian led the transformation of techUK from its predecessor Intellect in 2015, putting an increased focus on the growth and jobs the technology industry offers in a global economy. He has since led its impressive expansion driving forward the tech agenda in key areas such as skills, digital ID and public sector transformation, now leading techUK’s 70-strong team and representing over 850 member companies, comprising of global and national champions and more than 500 SMEs. In 2020, techUK joined forces with TechSkills, the employer-led organisation that aims to improve the talent flow of talent into the digital workforce.
Julian represents techUK on a number of external bodies including the Digital Economy Council, the Cyber Growth Partnership and the Department of International Trade’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group. He also sits on the Executive Board of DIGITALEUROPE and is a member of the Board of the Health Innovation Network the South London Academic Health Science Network.
Julian has over thirty years of experience in the technology industry. Prior to joining techUK, he had a long career at IBM culminating as Vice President for Small and Medium Business and then Public Sector. After leaving IBM he worked as a consultant helping tech SMEs establish successful operations in the U.K. His personal interests include Football (West Ham and Real Madrid) and Art.