Martha Lane Fox, keynote speaker at today's CMS Real Estate Conference, has made a bold proposal to establish a new UK Office for Responsible Technology, or 'ORT'. She suggests that this is needed to overcome the fact that a plethora of regulators, from the CMA to the ICO, are struggling to function in a digital world.
Fox is right that regulators are grappling with an increasingly obvious lacuna in their powers. Each body has a narrow focus; the harm that each was established to address keeps morphing in the fast-moving tech world. How to address the harm that certain tech businesses are perceived to cause when they often claim (quite rightly) that they are playing by all of the existing rules?
A more holistic approach is surely to be welcomed, although some might say a broader remit brings greater capacity for error; and a risk of trying to pick winners (or indeed support losers). Post-Brexit, it will also be interesting to see whether moves towards a more values-based system can balance questions of whether this would impact on UK inward investment.
Tech regulation is now inevitable. From Silicon Valley to London to Brussels, there is political will and popular support for change. But regulation can seem an overwhelming challenge. How do you tame an industry that surpasses national boundaries, whose frictionless products outpace the grinding wheels of government? Finding a solution will help drive the next wave of innovation — of responsible technology that promotes a fair and inclusive democratic society... The UK has an opportunity to...show how it can be done. A new independent body should be created with the aim of creating a resilient system of regulation. The Office for Responsible Technology, as it might be called, would support existing regulators and recommend new ones.