A digital single market will need smarter regulation to succeed

Vice-President Ansip addressed the tech sector in Hannover in March proclaiming a digital revolution and on the 6th of May he will lay out a Digital Single Market Package which the Commission hopes will bring revolutionary benefits to Europe’s economy. Kieren from Interel EU shares his views.

Vice-President Ansip addressed the tech sector in Hannover in March proclaiming a digital revolution and on the 6th of May he will lay out a Digital Single Market Package which the Commission hopes will bring revolutionary benefits to Europe’s economy. Vice-President Ansip rightly underlined in his Hannover speech that smart technology and businesses need smart regulation – existing and new regulation has to be fit for purpose in the digital world. This would be a good starting point for the Commission’s digital agenda.

Regulating fast moving and highly innovative products and services requires responsiveness and a great deal of collaboration with industry. The Commission’s data protection legislation is a good example of what a task that is, by the time the legislation is eventually adopted some 8 years will have elapsed, a lifetime in technological terms.

Of course for a legislator it inevitably take time to get to grips with complex legislation dealing with complex technology and business models. They would be greatly assisted by rigorous Commission impact assessments.

The process of impact assessment improved greatly under the Barroso I and II Commissions but are only as good as the data available to the officials that put them together. Industry can often be guilty of failing to provide the level of insight required to ensure that legislation is based on a full and up-to-date picture of the market place it attempts to regulate.

However, once a Commission proposal and impact assessment are published it often helps to focus industry minds. Decoupling the publication of an impact assessment from the final proposal could help to ensure that the Commission gets the benefit of focused industry insight before it adopts a proposal. This would mean presenting figures and assumptions during the consultation phase of a proposal and allowing industry and other stakeholders to challenge and sense check. Confronting industry with figures will help to extract better analysis at a stage of the legislative process when a legal text is still in draft form within the Commission. 

Better impact assessment will help to achieve future proof legislation and help to expedite the decision making process by giving decision makers a more informed basis on which to agree legislation. This will help European businesses and citizens feel the benefits of a digital single market far quicker.