“Trust in digital institutions such as social media has declined, concerns about data protection and privacy are increasing, and employee and company activism is increasing,” said Mark McDonald, research vice president at Gartner. “These and other concerns point to disruption of the current self-regulatory-based system of digital regulation and the need for new approaches.”
Regulation in a digital world is challenging and complex. Rather than a few all-encompassing laws, it is more likely that regulation would be a blend of different rules, rule makers and subject areas. This creates the need for a framework to organize, evaluate and develop regulations with clear outcomes, focus and scope.
The structure of digital society reflects the structure of digital technology as people, technology, business, culture and social interactions have evolved and emerged. There are four main levels of digital society that sit atop a substructure of commercial, communications and technologies capabilities:
- Digital Society — The sum of the interactions, information, value and priorities generated between people, organizations and things in a digital and physical connected world.
- Digital Platforms — Collections of digital businesses that form global value chain systems. Platforms attract buyers and sellers to transact on a specific collection of digital services.
- Digital Business — New business models and designs connecting people, businesses and things to drive revenue, greater efficiency, improved safety and higher quality.
- Digital Society Infrastructure — The institutions and foundational elements of the physical and digital worlds, including critical physical infrastructure and cyberinfrastructure.
“Recognizing these layers within digital society gives regulators and society a framework to place new tools and options. Rules can be specific to each layer. For example, the EU’s GDPR legislation, an example of the Digital Society Infrastructure level, is very specific regarding the handling of personal information and people’s rights to that information. It is a rule that is foundational and applies to every level above it,” said Mr. McDonald. “Alternatively, rules related to digital marketing practices exist at the Digital Business level. In this way, the levels provide a structure for organizing, evaluating, identifying gaps and developing regulation and rules in a cohesive manner.”
Establishing effective new rules involves employing new ways of working in terms of different styles of regulation and different regulatory mechanisms. The goal is rules that are based on and consistent with the structure and dynamics of digital society. “Regardless of where regulations go, one thing remains. Rule-making benefits from a diversity of contribution and debate. Constructive contribution requires starting with a sharing understanding; in this case, a framework for digital regulation,” said Mr. McDonald.