Regulators are in a unique position, at the forefront of interaction with consumers, business, and government, and with direct oversight of markets that deliver essential services to citizens and the economy. They are characterised by technical expertise and organisational agility, making them essential players of the regulatory and policy ecosystems. This role is enhanced in a context subject to fast transformation, led by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning, and big data analysis, that disrupt traditional business models and create new ways for consumers to interact with the providers of goods and services. Regulators have their fingers on the pulse of the markets and these transformative innovations.

Economic regulators are entrusted with a number of responsibilities that vary across jurisdictions and sectors. They often include ensuring that markets run efficiently and that consumers have access to good-quality services, as well as upholding competition and creating a level playing field for market actors. In the context of emerging technologies, regulators have to provide frameworks that foster innovation on the one hand and that continue to uphold these goals on the other. As such, the transformative effect of emerging technologies is deeply impacting the work of regulators and in some cases, calls into question whether the objectives, resources and tools of regulatory authorities are still fit for purpose.

In this context, this report showcases initiatives designed by regulators across sectors of the economy to get ahead of the curve in addressing some of these challenges and changes. The case studies presented in the report illustrate exercises as diverse as review of the stock of regulations, internal re-organisation, assessment of the regulator’s resourcing levels, and the development of foresight capacity. They also bring to light how emerging technologies have had a positive impact on the way regulators design their regulatory and enforcement activities, for instance using live data and data driven regulation. In all of these areas, the need for enhanced co-operation (across sectors or national frontiers) and change management internally for a forward looking culture and staff keen on embracing new ways of working come to the fore.

The preparation of the report was prompted by discussions at the 12th meeting of the OECD Network of Economic Regulators in April 2019. The report marks the continuation, rather than the conclusion, of these discussions. As markets continue to change and as economies react to systemic shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for agility and flexibility, as well as capacity for self-assessment by regulators remain essential. This report is a contribution to this important conversation and forms part of OECD work in the area of innovation, emerging technologies and regulation.

This report is part of the OECD work programme on the governance of regulators and regulatory policy, led by the OECD Network of Economic Regulators and the OECD Regulatory Policy Committee, with the support of the Regulatory Policy Division of the OECD Directorate of Public Governance. The Directorate’s mission is to help government at all levels design and implement strategic, evidence-based and innovative policies that support sustainable economic and social development.

The report was presented to the OECD Network of Economic Regulators and the Regulatory Policy Committee for approval in October 2020 by written procedure.

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