Regulations cannot catch up to the speed of innovation. Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, etc All these platforms had seen light for a decade while a significant portion of the world still struggles to figure out the boundaries and implications to daily life, let alone setting regulations. If we take a broader lens to look at innovation, the rate of innovation is only moving more rapidly than ever, which makes it more difficult to catch up.
Lawmakers are disconnected from the innovation scene
Take a look at the congressional hearing of both Facebook and Google: we can notice the disconnection between the lawmakers and new technology. It is not surprising because most of them are the older generation which is statistically not the target market of any of those technologies nor they belong to “Innovator,” “Early adopter,” or “Early Majority.” (Please see Law of Diffusion of innovation). Without extensive research, it would be difficult for these people to arm with the right knowledge and perspective to speak in congress on behalf of the people (user).
Legacy law-making process as the major issue
Most countries are still using a law-making system established decades ago, that is multi-layered and lengthy in process. As a result, it is time-consuming, prone to cognitive bias and inconclusive to a wider perspective. While we have seen digital transformation happening across industries, little do we see that happens in this area.
- Regulations slow down the adoption of new technology, business model, and innovation.
- General users and businesses are not protected in the unregulated market. (i.e. privacy, physical safety, fraud)
- Not having the right perspective in regulation-making may not fulfill end-users’ needs.
Emerging Trend: Designers as facilitators of law and regulation-making
Recently, Amazon as a subject matter expert is working to propose a set of regulations to federal regulators regarding the use of facial recognition. Another tech giant, Google, also proposes tighter industry standards around data collected for digital ads. Shortly, it is expected to see more involvement from an industry expert to get involved in regulation-making.
While it is pleasing to see industry experts getting involved, it is also critical to inject the voice of the user in this process and to strike a balance between “User,” “Government,” and “Expert.” There is a need for design practitioners to facilitate meaningful conversations among all parties to come up with a way of work that is viable, feasible, and desirable. In the upcoming years, I see opportunities for the design community to step up and shape the way we live.
Case Study: AGL — Australia Energy Bill Design
Australian states have recently changed regulations over what to display in energy bills recently. It is now mandatory to highlight
- The rate
- If the customer is on the “best plan” (based on rate)
- The best plan if the customer is not already on it
“ The energy bill design is now clogged and busy. Rates are confusing and don’t mean much to people, they just want to see the total and the discount.” (From Design Practitioner in Australia)
- Users need to get used to the new paradigm to evaluate energy usage
- Relevant information that suits the existing mental model may not be available at first glance
- The government’s decision might drive the industry toward a discount oriented model. The importance of other competitive advantages might get diluted i.e. service quality and innovation