Forum: Disruptive technology can't thrive in environment that is overly dogmatic

Vehicles on the PIE near Bedok Reservoir Road, on Jan 3, 2019.
Vehicles on the PIE near Bedok Reservoir Road, on Jan 3, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

While it is important to uphold the law, the authorities should realise that laws exist to serve the people and not the other way around (Unlicensed vehicles cannot offer cross-border services: LTA, Dec 30, 2019).

In a fast-moving world, supported by disruptive technology and systems, new and ever-evolving developments can progress faster than policymakers can make complete sense of their immediate and long-term impact.

If the authorities focus on resulting problems, they may fail to see opportunities that can benefit the economy and society.

A case in point is the carpooling scheme under unique circumstances that has been widely practised for some time in many developed countries.

It is convenient for commuters, saves time, reduces stress and cuts costs.

In the bigger picture, it can reduce traffic congestion, road maintenance, and air pollution, help protect the environment, and contribute towards building a car-lite nation.

The authorities should sit with vendors to work towards optimising benefits for the greater good while reducing potential risks and liabilities, including arranging for insurance to protect commuters.

For similar and other more complex developments, the authorities should adopt a light touch in their regulatory roles.

Implement "maximum opportunity and minimum barrier" criteria for reviewing current policies and crafting new policies to capitalise on opportunities and not unintentionally exacerbate the downsides of disruption.

Being overly dogmatic in supporting a regulated environment may stifle creativity and innovation. And potentially prevent us from pioneering world-beating services such as ride-hailing and crowdfunding services because they would have infringed the laws and accepted practices in place at the time.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2020, with the headline 'Disruptive technology can't thrive in environment that is overly dogmatic'. Print Edition | Subscribe