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Can policy makers catch up with the 4IR?


Lately, I have been reading more about the challenges that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is bringing to policy making and governance. The pace of the changes is what is challenging governance institutions. It is like policy makers are catching up with the consequences and impact of the new technologies and as the pace of change accelerates, catching up becomes harder.

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Photo: Maurizio Pesce on Flickr

I though about this when reading  and watching some of the commentaries on Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to Senate and Congress in the US this week.

On NYT Day 2 of Mark Zuckerberg’s Testimony: What to Watch For :

“The Senate hearing made clear that lawmakers aren’t quite sure what Facebook’s business model is or how it works, including what the difference is between selling user data to advertisers and allowing advertisers to target ads to an aggregated slice of Facebook users.

The technological gap between Silicon Valley and Washington was apparent when Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican of Mississippi, asked about internet regulation.

Mr. Zuckerberg explained that when thinking about regulations, government officials need to differentiate between internet companies like his and broadband providers, the companies that build and run the “pipes” that carry internet traffic, like AT&T and Comcast.

The difference is at the heart of net neutrality, a hotly debated regulation that was overturned last year. The rules prevent internet service providers from favoring the flow of all internet content through their pipes.

Mr. Zuckerberg explained that when thinking about regulations, government officials need to differentiate between internet companies like his and broadband providers, the companies that build and run the “pipes” that carry internet traffic, like AT&T and Comcast.

The difference is at the heart of net neutrality, a hotly debated regulation that was overturned last year. The rules prevent internet service providers from favoring the flow of all internet content through their pipes.

“I think in general the expectations that people have of the pipes are somewhat different from the platforms,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

“When you say pipes, you mean?” Mr. Wicker asked”

On Wired: If Congress Doesn’t Understand Facebook, What Hope Do Its Users Have?

“But the apology rang hollow for members of Congress who said they’d heard it all. “We’ve seen the apology tour before,” senator Richard Blumenthal told Zuckerberg. As proof, he summoned an oversized poster board featuring just a sampling of Zuckerberg’s past apologies in big block lettering. “This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it,” read one Zuckerberg quote from 2006. “I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes,” read another from 2011.

With that, Blumenthal made it clear that lawmakers didn’t want to hear Zuckerberg apologize. They just wanted to understand how this whole thing works—something Facebook’s users deserve to know as well.”

Did senators questioning Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg understand the internet? – video

If  lawmakers do not understand the technology, how can they design legislation and  policies that ensure that, as we move fast into the 4IR, economic growth benefits all, natural resources are preserved, and that the political debate is open, transparent, and fair. How to make sure that people come really first.

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