Digital economy necessitates regulation

Fresh problems emerging from the digital economy, such as conflicts of interests between conventional businesses and digital-based businesses—Uber and Grab are the case in point—necessitates the regulatory institution.

digital economy necessitates regulation hinh 0
According to the press release of the results of the General Economy Survey 2017 by the General Statistics Office, the IT application in economic and administrative organizations has continued to increase 
Shortly after Facebook announced its ownership of the broadcasting right for three seasons of the English Premiership in four Southeast Asian countries (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand), which opens up a potential chance for Vietnamese football fans to watch free this fascinating international football event, the Vietnam Pay Television Association (VnPayTV) has written to the Ministry of Information and Communications proposing no permission for Facebook broadcasting in Vietnam.

Cross-border services

If Uber can be seen as the world’s biggest taxi company, then Facebook can also be regarded as the world’s biggest “news agency” or “newspaper,” and YouTube the world’s biggest “television” company, though, in view of their digital-based business, these companies could hardly be framed as media agencies as per the conventional understanding.

Uber does not own any car or driver, Facebook has no reporter and YouTube does not have its own video producer.

These technology companies only provide the platform for users to produce materials and then turn them into “commodities” with different methods.

In the digital economy, the blurring of the conventional borders can be viewed from different angles. The traditional trade classification cannot define and name the new business model.

Facebook has all the elements of a newspaper, an electronic information page and a television station. In terms of production, there is no sole owner but co-owners. Uber, YouTube and Facebook have the platform and users partly own the materials and contents there.

When it comes to international borders, there is no borderline to define jurisdiction and legal rights as per the conventional understanding.

The Internet is borderless, and Internet users, who are also the co-producers and co-owners, are not framed within borders.

With the provision of borderless platforms, digital-based businesses do not need representative offices or physical presence in countries they have users. Therefore, the digital flow, in essence, has no more borders, and digital-based services become cross-border services.

In Vietnam, the penetration and use of such digital services are actually far more extensive than what one can visualize. Gmail, YahooMail, Hotmail and Outlookmail help people work and connect. Skype, Viber, Whatsapp, Zalo and Messenger provide an effective means of communications. Linkedin, Freelance.com and the like turn the labor market in a country into a global labor market.

These cross-border services are creating and re-shaping the ways of living and working of the majority of the population in countries with Internet access. However, this development process also engenders fresh political, economic, social and cultural issues, and conflicts naturally flare up.

The conflict of interest regarding Uber and Grab has been extensively analyzed and identified. Another kind of conflict is the “digital copyright.” VnPayTV is naturally not pleased with Facebook because its interest is harmed by the new business model. Under the conventional meaning, the television copyright is limited to each television set and controlled by the television signal, be it cable television or digital satellite television.

The signal can reach the television of each household, which is within a border. Meanwhile, the digital content broadcast on the social media of Facebook is borderless. So many people will turn to Facebook to watch football broadcasts at no charge, and the market share of conventional television firms will shrink as a result.

Regulatory issues

The development of the digital economy is posing a host of issues for policymakers. Do management agencies agree with VnPayTV’s, who represent local television firms, proposal to ban football broadcasting by Facebook or have other solutions? Can producers of contents for Facebook and YouTube get a fair share of revenue? How to deal with tax losses from Grab, Facebook and YouTube services? How to protect copyrights amidst the phenomenal sharing and violations in the digital environment? How to protect privacy and data rights? Fake news, incorrect news and hate and agitation speeches are widespread on social media.

How to fight malicious contents without harming the right to freedom of expression and speech?

How to regulate the digital economy or the sharing economy is posing a headache for policymakers worldwide, including Vietnam.

Nevertheless, while brawls about Industrial Revolution 4.0 abound, there is no discussion about concrete issues like the above mentioned, which are closely related to the practical life, the survival and the future of tens of millions of people and millions of businesses.

The policy for Grab, Facebook, YouTube and the like remains unclear. That’s not to mention many policy proposals by government agencies reveal the thinking of protection, sectionalism and nationalism in the context of the digital economy, a global economy without border.

Saigon Times

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