Don't harm IT...please?

A recently released report tells public policy makers to "do no harm." Is anyone listening?

A recently release report from the ITIF concludes that IT provides a productivity boost to the US economy worth $2 trillion. Wow!

The report examines the impact of IT in five key areas: "1) productivity; 2) employment; 3) more efficient markets; 4) higher quality goods and services; and 5) innovation and new products and services." Not surprisingly to anyone involved with IT, the report concludes that IT is tightly interwoven into almost every aspect of the economy.

The report also provides five public policy principles for digital prosperity. Several were interesting to me. In particular, the report recommends that policymakers "actively encourage innovation and transformation of economic sectors" and "do no harm."

The report recommends greater investment in IT research and that the government use policy levers to spur to spur economic development in the IT sector. My wish for government policy makers with respect to IT, however, is simply that they don't actively discourage IT innovation.

Any time that you see an established company suing for relief at the hands of those public servants that they've supported so well in the past, you can bet that the result will be policies that protect outdated business models and create artificial shortages in the face of natural abundance.

The "do no harm" recommendation, of course is reminiscent of the Hippocratic Oath (although those exact words are not actually part of the oath). "Do no harm" implies that if you don't know what you're doing, you do nothing. If we applied that to public policy, the law books would be very short indeed.

Under "do no harm," the report lists recent attempts to over-regulate voice-over-IP telephony, ban RFID technology, Internet video content, and specifically mentions laws that are designed to protect incumbents. The most noteworthy example in that category has to be the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

This is only a small part of a 75 page report that is full of interesting information for those looking to understand the economic impact of IT. One can only hope that more than a few policy makers at least read the executive summary.