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Mapping digital governance in the EU and beyond

 

Key messages

  • The fast pace of digitalization has left many public policies and legal frameworks outdated
  • Governments are adopting national, unilateral measures that risk fragmenting Internet and bifurcating technology ecosystems
  • A multilevel governance approach is needed that combines self-regulation, codes of conducts and standards with modernized regulation and more innovative supervision (e.g. sandboxes Blockchain & AI)

 

Christoph Steck, Telefonica’s Public Policy and Internet Director, had the opportunity to participate, in the roundtableMapping digital governance – Intra and cross jurisdictional challenges for law and policy making in the EU and beyondas part of the event The roundabouts of Digital Governance, organised by the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

During the event, the participants from public and private sector and academy, shared their particular point of view about the actual context of the digital economy and the challenges that may come to set a fair and useful framework for a new digital governance looking for solutions to the problems that the governments are facing for making politics and policies.

 

"We're really changing a paradigm from what we have as a society [...] we must distinguish our role in such a totally changed world"

 

 

50 years after the creation of the Internet there is a strong evidence of a dangerous trend related to the adoption of quick and local-fix measures under the pressure of urgency. The lack of trust and the geopolitical gap is encouraging a technological 'decoupling' that jeopardize the global ecosystem of the Internet as we know it today.

This diverse legal or technical approaches adopted by governments (but also by private actors) could finally result in a voluntary or involuntary fragmentation of the Internet which is nothing but a contrast between what we see in the world where we have very globalized systems and supply chains and the national politics and policies trying to get back control.

 

“We are going now to fragmentation on technology layers which I think is quite more dangerous”

 

In addition, politics are very slow while technology is very fast. Often, regulators and legislators do not know what to do as the complexity of technologies makes extremely difficult to measure up to the challenges it poses.

That said many existing rules and frameworks do no longer fit to resolve these challenges. We need to modernize our processes to find creative ideas and reassert common values for the technologies that are already shaping our future. All of them are geared towards getting a reliable, sustainable and trustworthy Internet.

The need to equalize the online and offline world, rights and obligations is urgent and we want to contribute and commit to this public debate on the need to renegotiate, redefine and reaffirm common values for the digital future. We truly believe it’s time to rewrite the rules.

We need global strategies to tackle the risks that this epochal change of digitalization is bringing. New layers of debate and decision making must be added to the multilateral system to generate complementary dynamics. In order to face challenges ahead, Telefonica supports a multilevel-governance approach which combines: supervision and regulation, codes of conduct and standards, self-regulation and corporate responsibility.

 

“What we propose is a kind of new deal. A New Digital Deal”

 

Agile governance should also include room for experimentation of new ideas. Regulatory sandboxes, where it might be possible to try the benefits and risks of every decision in a safe environment, would be an interesting approach for new technologies or services. This could allow developers test usage and adoption of innovative services-business models in a controlled environment. This approach may fit the requirements of new technologies as blockchain or AI.

Governance of low risk scenarios, while also subject to ex post intervention by governments, would be based on voluntary schemes ranging from Company Guidelines, adherence to regulatory  best practices, voluntary certification schemes. That’s the case for platforms that would have a risk-based regulation subject to ex post supervision by authorities.

We must try to find new ways forward trying to be faster, trying to be more inclusive in the way we do policy and not forget that at the centre of all should be us, should be human beings and not the technology in itself.

 

For more information, please watch the full video of the event here.

 

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Lourdes Tejedor / @madrid2day

Equipo de Políticas Públicas, Telefónica.