The ultimate regulation question tech platforms inevitably face whenever they enter a new market is ‘Do we ask for forgiveness or do we seek permission?’ It’s a question of collaboration or reaction with Governments. Understandably, some platforms assume it will be better to prove the concept works on a large scale before starting conversations with the Government, which can put them in good stead to say it would impact the economy if the Government regulates negatively against them. However, this can end up backfiring significantly with Governments able to make decisions that can render the platform or product illegal or inoperable overnight.
Governments are always trying to strike a balance between supporting new innovations that can create more jobs on one hand, and maintain high quality and safety on the other. The risk of not engaging and building relationships with the Government early enough can lead to policy-makers designing legislation that aims to address new tech and platforms under old principles, instead of being drafted with innovative concepts in mind. Through genuine consultation and engagement with law-makers and the broader community, policy can take a more informed direction, ultimately supporting the introduction of new tech to be in a position to be truly effective and able to achieve large reach.
"The Government can really benefit from understanding what kind of outcomes its citizens are experiencing from the adoption of technology and platforms that are breaking new ground"
A key factor of engaging with the Government while introducing new digital ways of working is considering the value add of the tech. Deep insights that could have been previously unattainable for the Government is an example of what digital disruption can bring to the conversation. Tech platforms in particular can aggregate how people engage with the service, sometimes right down to the postcode. This information can support Government policy-makers to make informed decisions by being able to understand the adoption of these technologies and how they solve complex policy issues. If you imagine yourself as a law-maker presented with a company that has developed tools or data that help to answer public policy challenges, compared to another company that has created a new, unforeseen public policy headache, it is not difficult to conclude which is the more appealing option for constructive engagement.
The detailed and comprehensive data about how the new tech operationalizes in a new market can be powerful evidence to the Government of how alternative models of interventions can benefit the community. Hireup is a great example of this. Through a secure online platform, Hireup provides people with disability the tools to find, hire and manage their own support workers who share their interests. This kind of disability service model harnesses technology to give people with disability greater choice in their lives, which aligns with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The speedy adoption of this social tech platform in Australia demonstrates that people are looking for alternatives to current delivery models for citizen services. The Government can really benefit from understanding what kind of outcomes its citizens are experiencing from the adoption of technology and platforms that are breaking new ground. Although place-based interventions contribute value to society today, the success of platform-based services in solving complex social policy issues highlights that platform interventions will play a significant role in the future.
Should tech companies begin to effectively collaborate with the Government to share these kinds of insights? The Government would potentially be more open to considering enhanced investment in this sphere. Traditionally, Government incentives for research and development have been focused around place-based interventions for better social outcomes. A potential positive outcome of tech companies building stronger relationships with the Government—and importantly, ‘seeking permission’—could result in further funding in the technology ecosystem to support new ways of addressing broader, society-wide issues.