NZ warned: revamp tech regulation or be left behind

Report from New Zealand Initiative and InternetNZ

The New Zealand Initiative — a policy think tank supported by CEOs of major New Zealand businesses — and InternetNZ have released a report on the state of regulation facing the technology sector, claiming New Zealand will become a global laggard if regulations are not amended in the face of technological change.

The report Analog Regulation, Digital World singles out:

- copyright law, saying it needs to make greater provision for changing technologies to open new ways of making, marketing and accessing content;

- government commitment to open data that needs to be backed by greater open data practice;

the Land Transport Act that needs to change faster to reflect the reality of ridesharing;

- anti-money laundering legislation that should be more sensitive to the magnitude of potential risks so digital innovation is not unduly hindered; and

- film and television censorship regimes that need to be updated to better account for how users can learn about and access content with modern technology.

The report has been co-authored by Dr Eric Crampton, chief economist with The New Zealand Initiative, and James Ting-Edwards, an issues advisor at InternetNZ. It takes issue with what it says are rigid or high regulatory barriers for small firms in small countries.

Crampton said: "Rules which enable innovation need to let people do things without asking permission, and to do new things which don’t fit into existing check-boxes.”

He singled out New Zealand’s anti money laundering regime, which he said had laudable intentions but been applied too bluntly against small, low-risk entities like iPredict. "High compliance costs on small firms kill innovation," Crampton said.

Ting said copyright law had failed to keep pace with technology.  "Creative New Zealanders are taking up new options for making and sharing their work. That embrace of changing technology has not been matched in our 1994 copyright law. Our copyright system could be more flexible, enabling more innovative uses of data and content."

The authors did, however, find some bright spots, singling out the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise’s regulatory framework for space launches.

"MBIE’s approach in dealing with Rocket Lab gave us a world-leading framework,” Crampton said.

“New Zealand will be the eleventh country to reach orbit thanks to their regulatory work behind the scenes. We need to learn from that example for other large technical regulatory challenges yet ahead."

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