askST@NLB: Important for policymakers to get industry views when developing regulations

ST senior correspondent Krist Boo and Mr Bensen Koh, manager at public policy consultancy Access Partnership. ST PHOTO: SAMUEL ANG

SINGAPORE - It is important for policymakers to tap industry views when developing regulations, according to tech regulation consultant Bensen Koh.

Not everyone can get his way but the wider picture is that the industry players can give input to solve issues together with the regulators.

"Because at the end of the day, if you don't have a good regulatory environment, what happens is that customers lose their trust in the products and nobody wants that," said Mr Koh, who works in public policy consultancy Access Partnership.

Consulting industry players was something the authorities did during Mr Koh's previous job in the civil service, where he was involved in developing policies for drones.

Business owners and hobbyists were contacted at the time.

"I can't say that we have always ended every single dialogue or meeting with everybody completely satisfied and on the same page, but I think that the flow of opinions definitely improved the regulations that we have," Mr Koh added.

He was speaking to The Straits Times' senior correspondent Krist Boo about tech regulation in Singapore at the AskST @ NLB discussion "How Singapore plays cop in cyberspace".

AskST @ NLB is a collaboration between ST and the National Library Board (NLB).

The virtual talk was shared on ST's Facebook page at 7pm on Thursday (Dec 30).

Mr Koh noted that it is sometimes hard for policymakers to strike a balance between safety and giving enough flexibility for the industry to innovate.

"And in many cases, I think we might not really know whether we made the right decision until quite some time in the future," he said.

Mr Koh added that developing regulations is an issue of playing catch-up with reality.

"I think it is actually not a good sign if regulatory developments are too quick," he said, adding that it might mean the new regulations were created without relying on any real-world information or data.

This is why it is important for regulators to consult industry players, said Mr Koh.

He noted that the authorities still have the final say in the process of developing regulations even if the industry disagrees with them, as they have to stand by the policies eventually issued.

"But if you take a wide view of what it means to win or to lose… what everyone wants is the same thing, which is a facilitative regulatory regime where Singapore can facilitate these innovations that help our economy, so that we can be more prosperous," he added.

Other topics covered in the virtual talk include the need to review how Singapore interacts with tech giants such as Google, improving the technological literacy of the population, and the state of tech regulation here.

Members of the public can find more information and resources on this topic at ProQuest Central - a database the NLB subscribes to - using the keywords "tech regulation".

A myLibraryID is required to access the database.

Those who do not have a myLibraryID can go to and sign up for one using their Singpass or identity card number or Foreign Identification Number.

The video recording of the event and past sessions can be found here.

The next AskST @ NLB session will be held on Jan 28.

Recommended reading

  • Social media and the public interest (electronic resource): Media regulation in the disinformation age, by Philip M Napoli
  • Regulating FinTech in Asia: global context, local perspectives, edited by Mark Fenwick, Steven Van Uytsel and Bi Ying
  • Human rights and digital technology: digital tightrope, by Susan Perry and Claudia Roda
  • Consumer protection in the age of the 'information economy', edited by Jane K. Winn
  • Customer data + privacy: insights you need from Harvard Business Review

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