Regulation can help safeguard and protect people, information and infrastructure. It can help serve as an equalizer so that all market players benefit from a level playing-field. Regulation can foster an environment that encourages and sustains return on investments, for example in infrastructure.
Today, there is almost no economy that does not have its own, independent ICT regulator (whether that is the Ministry or regulatory authority), managing vital issues like radio-frequency spectrum allocation, operator licensing and national network and services development in an increasingly complex policy environment. Regulators are dealing with issues such as evolving digital taxation frameworks, infrastructure sharing strategies, consumer trust issues, the blurring of demarcation lines between content development and network operation, network investment issues and getting everyone connected to the benefits of ICTs.
The ICT sector is among the fastest-moving sectors which necessitates fast-moving regulatory responses. On the one hand, ICTs are becoming less visible, but more prevalent, embedded in many sectors and systems beyond ICT. Some markets are consolidating; other markets are proliferating and fragmenting; cyber threats are growing in scope and scale; and growth in mobile subscribers is expanding local access to the Internet. Many countries are expanding the scope of their regulatory frameworks to address the challenges of digital transformation, while monitoring and enforcement are on the rise. On the other hand, collaboration among ICT regulators and regulators from other sectors is also increasing.
New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, the app economy, cloud computing, Internet of Things, social media and mobile technology and business models are putting regulatory paradigms to the test. National regulators are faced with new technologies as well as new business and investment models. At the same time, they are conscious that they need to continue to address safeguarding and protecting consumers and infrastructure without hampering innovation or investment.
One regulatory model hardly fits all, and divergent regulatory frameworks in a complex, fast-moving landscape may add complexity, create uncertainty and discourage investment and innovation.
A national ICT regulatory authority often works with the competition authority, the consumer and data protection authority, the broadcasting authority and any appointed authority dealing with Internet-related issues. ICT regulators also increasingly team up with their peers in other sectors to address regulation for digital transformation. Indeed, digital technologies and services are transforming lives across society, and are now embedded in many sectors and systems beyond ICT - from agriculture, banking, climate change mitigation, education, eGovernment and health, to intelligent transport and smart water management systems.