Technology and law: is government lagging?

It may not surprise you that the government is currently lagging behind in embedding technology innovations into the juridical system (Tweakers, 2015; Stoter et al. 2010). Because of the nature of legislative process, implementing new laws takes 620 days (1,7 years) on average. Meanwhile, technologies emerge at a fast pace.

To really grasp the extend of this problem for information strategy, just look at some examples of the current blanks in our juridical system regarding new technologies:

  1. Clinically testing new applications of Bio Printing of organs is still prohibited, which imposes a big barrier on research in this area. If you think about all the possibilities that this technique can have, for instance solving the current organdonar shortages, there really are lives at stake here.
  2. The internet of things raises many juridical questions that are currently not answered. For instance: if your ‘smart’ fridge auto orders groceries from the supermarket, who is actually legally bound to the contract?
  3. Major firms are involved in making cars smarter and even self-driving. This poses the question: who is liable when an accident occurs?

It is clear that the government can’t keep up with all recent developments. There are however ample examples of real life situations that do demand a clear juridical answer. Ultimately, this comes down to an increased pressure on courts to deal with these issues.

This is problematic for a couple of reasons:

  • Letting courts decide on how to deal with new technologies, undermines the separation of powers (trias politica) principle. According to this principle, the parliament must make laws, as the parliament is checked by our democratic system. On the other hand, the courts need to be independent in their application of the law to specific circumstances. When courts need to make a decision on an issue that currently has no laws regulating it, the democratic check is missing.
  • When laws are missing, businesses struggle with uncertainty. It is risky to invest in a technology if it is unsure which rules apply to it. This problem occurred with the Segway for instance. From 2007-2008 Segways were not permitted on the road, because there was no vehicle category that the Segway fitted into. Politicians concluded that its not a scooter, nor is it a bike. (Keep in mind here that the classification is pretty important. To name one feature: you need to have a license to drive a scooter. So, the classification can dramatically change your business model and potential market)
  • It takes a lot of time and money to institute legal proceedings. As it is the task of the parliament to make laws, businesses should not have to pay for a decision simply because the parliament doesn’t do its task.

What do you think? How can the government improve its law making to be more compatible with the rapid technology innovations?



One response to “Technology and law: is government lagging?”

  1. 360107kf says :

    I totally agree with you post, as I have written a blogpost as well about the lack of adaption of the government towards technology. It is a big problem and it will become even bigger as technology is growing exponentially. What I would suggest to the governments is to work together with tech companies instead of working against them and prohibit certain types of technology. Together they can make policies for technology before it reaches the market. The development of laws should be embedded into the development of new technologies.

    But the first step is to tackle the bottleneck, the time to change or make a law. With the technology from now it should be possible to make it way more efficient. I read another article that the government itself is using outdated technology. This slows down processes like you described. (Washington Post, 2015)

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