Keep up with technology or be left behind

New Zealand will not only be small and distant from the rest of the world but also years behind if regulations do not keep up with technological change.

The New Zealand Initiative and InternetNZ have released their report on the state of regulation facing the technology sector. The report finds a few successes and many opportunities for improvement.

The report will be discussed at NetHui 2017 (9-10 November, Aotea Centre, Auckland) on the Friday at 2.30pm. In this discussion session, James Ting-Edwards and Eric Crampton will briefly note some of their findings and seek advice from participants about whether we have hit the right areas, or whether there are important regulatory and policy barriers to innovation that we have missed. The discussion will help scope future work in the area for both organisations. To join in this discussion, register for NetHui here.

Said report co-author and Initiative Chief Economist Dr Eric Crampton, “New Zealand’s public service is one of the world’s most highly rated. But the pace of technological change means that even the best cannot keep up without a little help.”

The report cautions against setting rigid or high regulatory barriers for small firms in small countries.

“Rules which enable innovation need to let people do things without asking permission, and to do new things which don’t fit into existing check-boxes,” said Crampton.

“New Zealand’s anti-money laundering regime has laudable intentions. But it has been applied too bluntly against small, low-risk entities like iPredict. High compliance costs on small firms kill innovation,” Crampton continued.

Sometimes, waiting to set our own rules might delay us from adopting new products and services. Drawing on earlier regulatory approvals from other countries, at least temporarily, could simplify things in New Zealand. Instead of classifying all-new streaming content, we could take heed of how similar countries have done so.

Other areas require broader reform. Co-author of the report, Internet New Zealand’s James Ting-Edwards said, “creative New Zealanders are taking up new options for making and sharing their work. That embrace of changing technology has not been matched in our 1994 copyright law. Our copyright system could be more flexible, enabling more innovative uses of data and content.”

The report also lauds New Zealand’s regulatory success stories, like the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise’s regulatory framework for space launches.

“MBIE’s approach in dealing with Rocket Lab gave us a world-leading framework. New Zealand will be the eleventh country to reach orbit thanks to their regulatory work behind the scenes. We need to learn from that example for other large technical regulatory challenges yet ahead,” Dr Crampton concluded.

The report is available here