What do you Think? blog series

Is it time for the Big Four referees to educate the public sector on the benefits of rules changes?

In TBR’s newest blog series, What Do You Think?, we’re sharing questions our subject-matter experts have been asking each other lately, as well as posing the question to our readers. If you’d like to discuss this edition’s topic further, contact Geoff Woollacott at [email protected].

Adoption accelerated as innovation stalled

Last year’s pandemic-induced changes across the technology space and society overall led TBR to consider how the pandemic accelerated existing technology adoption trends. From an emerging technology perspective, we increasingly believe private sector adoption will remain stalled until public sector actors with scale and influence rethink operating practices and enact and enforce regulatory governance. Several years ago, our “wallet versus will” special report argued that the public sector used to lead in technology adoption when funding was the decisive factor but lagged in technology adoption when consensus on common business rules proved elusive. Add in a pandemic, and we’re questioning whether private sector innovation has hit a roadblock that will be resolved only when there is greater public-private partnership and, more importantly, an ability for our political leaders to come to some consensus. Consider the following:

  • Our latest research around blockchain suggests a current period of disillusionment. Reaching the scale technologically feasible to generate business returns requires better automation and regulatory agility or the networks won’t achieve scale through broader ecosystem participation.
  • Globally, poor international cooperation related to the sharing of information and the movement of people between countries contributed to the spread of COVID-19. Imagine a blockchain-enabled universal product code (UPC) on a smartphone functioning as an international system of record regarding vaccination history.  

Early in the pandemic, supply chain disruptions made headlines and every consumer felt the impacts. Blockchain-enabled smart supply chains, tied into ports and international transactions, could have smoothed out some of these disruptions if the distributed ledger technology had been broadly embraced by countries and their import/export hubs. The Republic of Venice once ruled commerce, reaching the pinnacle of its power from 1425 to 1500. It’s no coincidence that general ledger accounting was invented in Italy during that same period.

Moving from city-states to countries, nations fundamentally seek to protect their citizens through sovereign laws, with many regulations revolving around property, currencies and finances. Cryptocurrency purportedly separates currency from nations. In one potential scenario, China’s newly launched digital yuan topples the U.S. dollar as the de facto international currency trading standard, greatly reducing the impact of economic sanctions from the U.S. foreign policy tool set. Venice’s grip on the Mediterranean loosened for many reasons and while blockchain wasn’t among them — needing another 500 years to be invented — the parallels to the U.S. can be unsettling.

Private sector initiative proved emerging tech-enabled practices are essential; now comes public sector education

Out of necessity, the private sector accelerated emerging technology-enabled use cases to address the pandemic’s impact. This highlighted gaps in how the public sector operates and responds to significant changes in the commercial space. For newly enhanced technological tools to deliver tangible business and social benefit after these proofs of concept, government must accommodate new ways of working while still providing expected regulatory benefits to its citizens against moral hazards. Not surprisingly, advisory firms with the tax and audit knowledge essentially acted as referees within the free-market systems that frantically developed the workarounds to sustain business operations in 2020, exposing the ways in which the public sector decreases, rather than increases, the efficiency and viability of emerging technology-enabled operations.  

So, what do you think? Is it time for the Big Four referees to educate the public sector on the benefits of rules changes?

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