Major report calls for new tech regulation model

12 May 2022

Australia needs a new model to drive better technology regulation, according to a new report launched by The Australian National University's Tech Policy Design Centre.

The report comes as governments the world over are stepping in to regulate technology, including measures to protect children online, address the proliferation of mis/disinformation, foster competition, drive innovation and strengthen cyber security.

Tending the Tech-Ecosystem considers who is best placed to implement and oversee this new era of tech regulation, as well as the attributes of an effective tech regulator, and regulatory models that would best support a flourishing tech-ecosystem in Australia.

Sponsored by Microsoft, the report's findings were informed by interviews with 32 heads and senior representatives of Australian regulators, the Australian Government, industry and civil society, as well as a comparative study of 14 jurisdictions internationally.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the pervasiveness of digital technologies, combined with nascent tech policy and regulatory mechanisms, are currently producing lacklustre regulatory outcomes in Australia. It is a pattern that is repeated globally.

"If we get tech regulation right, we will get better technology for humanity; and that's a win for everyone," Professor Schmidt.

The report proposes a Tech Policy and Regulation Coordination model, which includes a specialist cabinet committee as well as an expert advisory panel.

"The model proposed in the report responds to calls for political leadership, strengthened coordination, increased transparency, access to independent technical expertise, and regularised, meaningful input by industry and civil society," Johanna Weaver, Director of the Tech Policy Design Centre and report lead author, said.

"I commend the report to any incoming government serious about positioning Australia to get the most out of technology, while proactively addressing harms associated with our increased dependence on it."

Belinda Dennett, Director of Corporate Affairs at Microsoft said, as the report finds, the stakes for getting this right are high. 

"It is going to take a new mindset.  It's going to require more dialogue, more collaboration and a broader vision - from governments, industry, academia and civil society.  We need to think creatively - across siloes and geographies if we are to truly embrace the opportunity technology brings," Ms Dennett said.

"Microsoft is pleased to support this report to drive an important conversation about what the right model for tech regulation is in Australia."

The report's authors will now test and refine the proposed model with broad groups of stakeholders in Australia and abroad. Those interested in being involved in those consultations are invited to contact the Tech Policy Design Centre.

A copy of the report is available on the Tech Policy Design Centre's website.