Regulatory Innovation The Next Frontier For Open Government

Earlier this week Obama issued a call to renew America’s regulatory system and not a moment too soon. A string of events over the past couple of years have underscored just how strained and ineffectual the current systems of regulation have become.

The FDA’s own Science Board concluded in 2007, for example, that the agency did not have the capacity to ensure a safe food supply, with domestic businesses under its purview having risen to 65,500 from 51,000 in 2001. The Byzantine nature of global food production and distribution only heightens the agency’s capacity problems. The same science board report noted that the FDA currently inspects just 1 percent or 2 percent of imported food shipments—not much of a deterrent to the world’s less scrupulous food producers.

Though worrying in itself, food safety is merely the tip of iceberg.  The failure of the SEC to detect the Madoff scandal or sound the alarm on ludicrous lending practices and over-leveraged financial institutions is perhaps the most glaring example. But regulators were also incapable of preventing tainted milk products and toxic toys produced in China from finding their way on to retail shelves in the US and other countries. And the problems hardly end there. Issues as diverse as climate change, water scarcity, emerging technologies, and infectious diseases demand innovative approaches and each issue comes with an impending sense of urgency.

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Anthony D. Williams is a best-selling author, speaker and consultant who helps organizations worldwide harness the power of collaborative innovation in business, government and society. Read more about Anthony.