Digital regulation: 7 ways to move the cursor

Nancy Sundberg, Senior Programme Officer, ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau

Digital markets are evolving at an increasingly rapid clip and have the potential to dynamize all economic sectors through digital transformation. A new generation of policies and regulation is geared towards fast-tracking digital development and expanding meaningful connectivity.


But amid COVID-19, closer and deeper collaboration is needed more than ever – across economic sectors and beyond borders.

Governments, companies, international organizations, and other institutions need to redouble regulatory efforts to speed up post-pandemic recovery – already catalyzed by digital transformation. But how can this be done?
A collaborative approach
“We need to keep our eyes firmly on goals like harmonization, resource sharing, and collaborative multi-stakeholder frameworks that embrace transparent, globally-agreed principles,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, during a conversation on Moving the Regulatory Cursor for Digital Regulation, co-hosted by ITU and the World Bank.

“We need to keep everyone working together constructively to help push access out to more and more people, as affordably as possible,” she added.

According to Boutheina Guermazi, Director of the Digital Development Infrastructure Practice Group at the World Bank, today’s digital era is built on a dynamic and consensual approach that integrates a diversity of voices and makes them work together.

“Among the […] digital risks posed by digital transformation, one of the most dramatic is the risk of doing nothing and being left behind. If we do not join forces to address emerging issues, global digitalization will carry on in a fragmented regulatory environment that will deepen existing vulnerabilities.”
7 key objectives
When it comes to the question of whether the regulatory basics still apply, the answer is yes. While core regulatory mandates still need to be thoughtfully used, the job of modern digital regulators also requires new skills and fresh thinking.

When it comes to digital regulation, flexibility and agility are ‘the new normal.’

To get off-script and apply these new regulatory patterns, regulators should focus on innovating with new tools and dynamic approaches while meeting 7 key objectives:

  1. Working together
  2. Committing to shared leadership
  3. Innovating to speed up global recovery
  4. Practicing multi-stakeholder engagement
  5. Going beyond regulatory fragmentation by building common ground around high-level regulatory principles
  6. Experimenting with new regulatory tools that offer digital opportunities for all
  7. Embracing the shifting the role of the regulator

The impact of digital regulation is coming under increased scrutiny as digital markets become increasingly powerful drivers of social and economic growth. In this context, stakeholder engagement is key to understand challenges faced by different market players who are all searching for a way out of the crisis.

New regulatory models need to be grounded in market realities and “make sense” for both industry and consumers. Practical, agile, scalable policies can have a multiplier effect on digital markets and economies.
New solutions and tools
The is no simple answer to the current challenges – but many solutions are at hand to help digital markets raise post-COVID.  Regulators need to keep abreast of these new approaches and tools to help them learn, streamline regulatory processes, and enhance collaboration. The Digital Regulation Handbook and Platform are designed to help regulators understand new challenges and find solutions to them.

Regulation has never been easy. But today, amid technological disruption, a global health crisis and an economic downturn – the outlook remains uncertain. All eyes are on policy-makers and regulators to lead the way out of these multiple crises and guide economies and societies towards recovery.

ITU and the World Bank will continue to deepen the analysis of topical regulatory issues to further assist regulators, market players and governments to deal with the complexity of digital markets.

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