The Malta Independent 7 December 2019, Saturday

Aligning governance with the new era

Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi Sunday, 3 November 2019, 09:17 Last update: about 2 months ago

The way technology has changed how we work and the way we live is an accepted norm. We are now experiencing an emerging new reality which has coined the term Creative Industries. The concept of creative industries is recognised across the world and has begun to give way to a more inclusive idea of a wider creative economy. The creative economy has no one defintion. It is seen to be the sum of the creative industries, which include architecture, advertising, arts, fashion, filming, research and development, software and other sectors where innovation features strongly.

An intrinsic relationship exists between the creative economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to an evolving environment in which disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things (IOT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) are changing the way we live and interact, both with one another on a personal level, between businesses and with government. Such changes are leaving an undelible mark not only on employees at their place of work but also on the ordinary citizen, on psychological and sociological levels. Who would have imagined that we would be able to book a taxi over an app a few years ago? Or book our next travel arrangements through our mobile?

The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production while the Second used electrical power to create mass production. In the Third Industrial Revolution, the extensive use of electronics and information technology was made use of to automate production.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution follows on from the Third Industrial Revolution but is considered a new era, rather than a continuation, because of the vastness of its development and the disruptiveness of its technologies. The new age is differentiated by the speed of technological breakthroughs and the impact of the new systems that are being deployed. The speed of change necessitates cushioning the unwarranted effects emanating mainly from change at such a fast pace.

Whole industries are being redefined by innovative business models that are founded on personalised, location-based,  on-demand services. These new realities require a different approach to governance where, traditionally, a top-down prescriptive approach was adopted. The speed with which industries are evolving necessitates a flexible regulatory environment, providing a pathway for innovation and lower entry barriers to businesses.

A traditional approach to regulation may hamper innovation and growth. This poses questions. To what extent do we have the necesary infrastructure? Is the the educational sytem training us  to perceive these emerging new realities?

In the Fourth Industrial Revolution an agile regulatory framework is key. We need to rise to the challenge as this will enable the country to compete effectively and ensure that businesses continue to perceive Malta as a leading innovative economic hub with a first-class, flexible and effective governance framework. It is only through closer collaboration between innovators and the private sector that policy-makers will edge closer towards agility.

Technology is seen as an enabler to attaining the goal where protocols are inbuilt rather than prescribed. For example, Video-on-demand (VOD) operates under a push model vs the traditional pull model. This means that viewers are able to select what they watch actively and are no longer at risk of unintended exposure. The sheer volume of content that is available on VOD poses a challenge to the traditional approach to governance as it presents regulators with a challenge to review all entries. At the same time, consumers continue to demand an even greater level of autonomy and personalisation.

The World Economic Forum, in its analysis of this new reality, refers to the South-East Asia example. To address governance challenges, VOD players have PIN controls, maturity ratings and online complaint platforms. The VOD self-regulation code in South-East Asia and India was developed by subscription VOD services and sets ethical standards around content, provides parental control and suitable ratings, engages with stakeholders and regulators and addresses concerns of consumers in a reasonable and timely manner through a direct complaint mechanism.

The paradigm shift in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is occuring at a pace never experienced before and there is a need for a rapid response. Governance must be reviewed. The regulatory structures in this new reality must evolve from the traditional benchmarks, which are time-consuming and shackled the rate at which products and services are deployed, to cater for a more engaging and demanding audience in the information age. Perhaps a soft shoulder should be contemplated for those who are experiencing difficulty with the pressures emanating from high-speed change so that they appreciate the endless opportunites available if one manages to rise up to such opportunities.

Such emerging new realities will continue to give rise to new governance systems. It is high time that we had an active and focused debate with clear objectives to update governance for the new world in order to reap the potential benefits with the fewest possible casualities.

 

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