The DRCF sets a longer-term vision for future digital regulation in its annual plan for 2024/5

25 Apr 2024 02:25 PM

The DRCF sets its agenda for the year ahead, amidst another busy year for the tech sector and its digital regulators.


This week has been significant for the UK’s Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF), which has now launched its AI and Digital Hub, as well as its workplan for the year, setting a longer-term three year vision.  

Despite still being a relatively new organisation, the DRCF and its four regulators (ICOCMAOfcom and FCA) are fast-becoming a permanent piece of furniture in the UK’s regulatory architecture, and are kept busy with an overwhelming portfolio of work. From implementation of new online safety, data protection and competition laws, to advancing responsible AI-driven innovation and monitoring technologies of the future, the UK’s digital regulators will continue to play a crucial role in how the tech sector evolves. 

The increasing importance of regulatory coherence was underscored at an event techUK hosted with the DRCF this week, where panels explored the role of regulators in enabling responsible innovation, and a deep-dive into the UK’s regulatory approach to AI before finally looking beyond the digital horizon, and future technologies. One key takeaway from the event was clear: the DRCF is here to stay, and more important than ever before.  

AI governance remains a hot topic

Governance of AI remained a hot topic throughout the day, as regulators poise themselves to publish their annual strategic plans by 30 April 2024, at the request of Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology as part of the Government’s pro-innovation approach to AI governance

Big moves are already being taken by the DRCF regulators to address AI governance within their remit: the FCA and Ofcom already published their strategic plans for AI, the CMA has made its case to intervene in markets for foundation models, and the ICO is midway consulting on the role of data protection law in generative AI. The AI and Digital Hub also marks a milestone moment, where innovators will be able to receive bespoke regulatory advice from the four DRCF regulators on cross-cutting challenges.  

This tool serves as one of the key deliverables for the DRCF’s annual workplan for 2024/5, the DRCF sets out its three-year vision of: 

Throughout its workplan, the DRCF identifies a range of projects it will seek to deliver throughout the year, clustered around research projects, cross-regulator deep dives and joint statements, further horizon scanning and plans to further boost regulators’ digital capabilities. The DRCF has also committed to broadening its engagement including continuing to host quarterly regulator roundtables attended by 11 non-member regulators, as well as building on its international engagement efforts. 

The view from industry

techUK welcomes the DRCF’s annual plan for 2024/5 and its summary of responses, which provides the transparency needed to signal to industry where existing regulatory questions are already being addressed, and which areas the DRCF will seek to prioritise. A remaining challenge for businesses is accessing new and existing information on regulators’ responsibilities, remits and priorities in one place. As businesses innovate, regulatory clarity will be a priority, and having information centrally located will make it easier to identify regulatory gaps, and better leverage tools such as the AI and Digital Hub to find solutions.  

Part of this is also the challenge around keeping informed on the DRCF’s diverse and dynamic programmes of work, which are oftentimes lost in social media updates, or land as unexpected press releases. Continuing to explore collaborative efforts through trade groups could help ensure a more predictable cascade of information from regulators down to industry, as well as producing a structured milestone oriented roadmap of activities. The FCA’s Regulatory Initiatives Grid should be looked to as best practice

This will become increasingly important as we see regulators begin to publish a more regular drumbeat of announcements, consultations, reports and updates. Creative methods of engagement will be required to ensure industry can keep at pace with developments, and have opportunities to regularly provide feedback. 

Planned research on future technologies such as digital identity and deepfakes set out in the workplan is also welcomed, and techUK urges the DRCF to work closely with industry and non-DRCF regulators to help identify the objectives and scope of any research projects and ensure they best tackle the challenges industry is seeking to address and ensure regulators harmonise their approaches. 

Read techUK's response to the DRCF's call for input to its 2024/5 plan annual plan, here.