The Digital Regulation Handbook: A guide for digital transformation

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A woman holds a tablet and interacts with a virtual digital display screen. Photo: © iStock
A woman holds a tablet and interacts with a virtual digital display screen. Photo: © iStock

Digital applications permeate all aspects of our economies and societies, enabling us to sell and purchase goods, access government services, play games, listen to music, watch movies, travel more efficiently, and so much more. 

But serious questions are still unanswered. For example, how can we protect critical digital infrastructure from threats? What is the best way to provide universal high-quality, affordable internet access to all citizens? How can we protect the rights of citizens and personal online data?  What is the best way to provide regulatory responses to evolving technologies? 

Finding the answers to these questions could be time-consuming and difficult. Wouldn’t it be better if we had access to a source of information that described how countries have succeeded in making these changes quickly, efficiently, and inclusively?

Enter the Digital Regulation Handbook

To fill this need, the World Bank’s Digital Development (DD) Global Practice and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have worked on updating the ICT Regulatory Handbook to transform it into the Digital Regulation Handbook.

The Handbook serves as a high-level reference document that supports digital regulation and provides insights on the challenges, opportunities, and solutions relating to digital regulation. Topics include regulatory governance and independence, competition and economics, access for all, consumer affairs, data protection and trust, spectrum management, emerging technologies, technical regulation, and emergency communications. Each chapter provides actionable guidance and concrete takeaways for decision-makers in deciding on the appropriate regulations and policies to guide digital transformation. Along with the English edition, the Handbook is also available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish.

Digital technologies have a profound impact on the way we live. The ongoing wave of innovation has the potential to remove many of the barriers that stand between people and opportunity, especially for populations in poorer communities. This is why the Handbook is also accompanied by an Online Platform, which provides up-to-date information and the latest good practice guidelines on digital regulation.

The Digital Regulation Handbook, the Online Platform, and supporting learning materials offer policymakers and regulators worldwide a valuable guide for developing effective digital regulations.  Critically, these resources also provide the tools for evaluating the effectiveness of those regulations. They can also help academics, and civil society actors navigate the emerging challenges associated with digital transformation. Other stakeholders, as well as the general public, who want to learn about topical regulatory issues and best practices related to the digital economy, can also use these resources. 

Why it matters

Recent global events have highlighted the importance of global digital transformation. First, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated our reliance on digital technologies and the need to utilize and manage digital transformation more effectively.  This, in turn, has raised concerns over the way we promote the digital economy and regulate digital platforms and services. 

Second, cybersecurity has risen to the top of many national agendas as cyberattacks have increasingly threatened businesses, governments, and critical infrastructure. Even the United States is vulnerable, as demonstrated in May 2021 when the IT systems of Colonial Pipeline were breached, spurring panic-buying and shortages of gasoline in several states. The meat-processing giant JBS SA was similarly attacked that same month, halting production at many facilities. Governments and businesses cannot ignore the policy implications of the larger problem of cybersecurity and, in particular, the wave of cyberattacks targeted at critical national infrastructure.

We hope these resources can provide valuable information on regulatory practices to enable a safe, productive, and meaningful digital economy for all.

Authors

Roku Fukui

Consultant, Digital Development Global Practice

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