As the technological revolution advances, bringing challenges such as Aadhar, privacy, data protection and e-governance, the process of law making and initiating policy has to face its own trials.
In a digital age, the essential question is whether technology decides the direction of sustainability and development and thus also laws and policies, or do sustainability and development priorities decide the direction of technology and innovation through laws and policies? Those who advocate the former, need to answer whether technology has indeed served the ends of sustainability, developmental goals of societies and economies. Has technology enabled people to improve their quality of life or has it resulted in the denial to many of such improvement? Concrete examples of this conundrum are whether technology has, for example, led to – improved food grain distribution systems and inventory management; advanced the accuracy and timeliness of advisories to farmers through satellite mapping of weather patterns; or enabled online and doorstep delivery of public services to the last person in the rule of law and access to justice value chain?
As the conflict between needs and resources becomes more acute, direction of law making and policy initiatives should be towards creating a system that enables new technology to enrich and benefit quality of human life through sustainability and development; improving governance and the delivery of public services by encouraging all stakeholders and aggregators to use new technology; enabling government agencies and NGOs effectively to use and manage data whilst implementing proper data protection and access policies; mandating the use of new technology in all business sectors to achieve transparency and an ethical work culture; and maintaining a balance between regulating businesses for the public good and freeing innovators and entrepreneurs from the hindrance of unnecessary and restrictive bureaucratic intervention.
Governance in the digital age is therefore to manage technology, using it to transform for the better – the economy, social frameworks, sustainable policies and institutions to enable multi-sectoral development with the aid of technology to meet strategic, societal goals in a timely manner.
There is now a need for a much closer collaboration between government and sectoral stakeholders resulting in the speedy formulation of high-quality policies and legislation. This synthesis results from key players adapting to the successively accelerating changes brought about by technology.
There is still great pressure on policy makers and legislators to develop their abilities to deal with (1) rapid changes in technology; (2) the uncertainty that these changes have on stakeholders and their ability to adapt; and (3) the necessity continually to be driven by a clear development strategy. There are public interest considerations that must be taken into account. Matters such as privacy, data and cyber security, and protection for intellectual property rights are the core drivers of this development strategy. A proper strategy enables stakeholders to focus on an inclusive digital ecosystem continuously aiding in improving the delivery & access of justice, social, political and economic to all by providing access and empowerment to small and medium enterprises, farmers and economically weaker communities.
As the focus and direction gains momentum towards bridging the digital divide between different communities and regions by building a stable digital infrastructure, new laws and policies have to ensure that vulnerable people are able to withstand the challenge of change. This happens through continuous collaborations between government and non-government stakeholders.
Additionally, many areas of governance continue to pose challenges to multi-sectoral sustainability because of lack of transparency and real time credible data mapping. These include banking and finance, tax administration, public distribution systems, land records, forests and resources, manufacturing, farming and farm produce movements. Even looking at block chain as a means for logging/recording transactions and records could prove to be the key to ensure incorruptibility and transparency and, hence, aiding sustainability across social and economic sectors. The digital age brings opportunities to enhance the sustainability of societies and economies by empowering the socially, economically and geographically weak. The benefits of the digital age can be made available and affordable for all by finding the right balance between technology and sustainability in law making and policy initiatives in the digital age.
Manoj Kumar is the founder and managing partner at Hammurabi & Solomon.
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