The speed of technological development vs the slowness of our governments

Enrique Dans
Mar 29, 2015 · 3 min read

We live in exponential times. Technology is progressing at a speed humanity has never seen before, and in the process is redefining the nature of competitiveness, giving way to new opportunities for wealth creation for those able to exploit them. This is wealth that has the biggest impact in those countries that offer a favorable environment for technological development, able to provide the right combination of resources of all kinds with an agile and propitious legal framework that doesn’t get in the way and create headaches all the time.

On December 1, 2013, Jeff Bezos appeared on US current affairs program 60 Minutes to outline the logistics for supplying some Amazon orders using drones, a service that was dubbed Amazon Prime Air.

To avoid problems with the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), the promotional video had to be filmed outside the United States. After the program was aired, Amazon asked the FAA for the necessary permits to begin trials with its drones, demanding a relaxing of legislation on the devices in the United States, threatening in December 2014 to carry out its trials in another country: the following year it did just that, hiring pilots to fly drones in the British city of Cambridge, taking advantage of the United Kingdom’s less stringent legislation, which only requires that drones be kept away from airports or crowded public places.

Perhaps in response to the pressure, the FAA told Amazon on March 19 that it could test its drones in the United States. The problem was that the answer had taken so long to come through that the model Amazon had intended to test was now completely out of date, prompting sharp criticism from the company.

Clearly, the time frames the US government works to are wholly inappropriate to the technological times we live in. Taking months or even years to approve a simple request to carry out tests of a drone in a world where new technological advances in this field are happening every couple of weeks makes no sense.

One can only imagine how long it would take to change the law to allow for the widespread use of drones: several years?

What justification is there for such slowness? In reality, this delay has nothing to do with the time needed to carry out tests, and instead reflects the time frames public bodies are used to working to. The sad fact is that this tardy approach would see a private company overrun by its competitors, but has no consequences in the public sector.

But things appear to be changing. The fact that in the EU, currently presided over by Latvia, has recently taken decisions that could lead to legislation that would facilitate the development of drones, might in turn mean that investment in the industry could take place outside the United States, with all that means in terms of qualified employment and general wealth creation. We are talking about a more competitive environment between countries, which are struggling to balance the need for security with the demands of industry to be able to carry out tests: the speed of technological development vs the slowness of our governments. In short, the country with the best environment in terms of development, coupled with the most agile government and awareness of the need for technological development could stand to gain considerably.

Now all we need to do is find a way to explain this to our governments…


(En español, aquí)

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

Enrique Dans

Written by

Professor of Innovation at IE Business School and blogger at enriquedans.com

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

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