2021 may see the tech business clear up its messes from missed driverless automotive targets to regulation threats

After a year of relying on technology to stay connected when it comes to work and socializing, in 2021 the industry will look to fix its own problems.

While the statement by then Minister of Transport, Chris Grayling, that driverless cars would be on the UK’s roads by 2021 was already optimistic in November 2017, it is safe to say that fully autonomous cars are still a long way from becoming commonplace sights on UK roundabouts to become. Instead, lengthy trials will continue to test public attitudes towards the vehicles, although Uber’s decision to sell its self-driving unit earlier this month is far from a vote of confidence in the company.

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Weapon against misinformation

If 2020 was the year we got used to using 5G, it is unlikely that the industry would be prepared for the already established anti-5G brigade to link the technology to the coronavirus outbreak . The rash of violence against broadband engineers and telephone pole arson attacks caused by false claims are representative. The war telecommunications companies as well as social media platforms and other technology giants will continue to crack down on disinformation and conspiracy theories throughout 2021. Facebook, Google, YouTube, TikTok et al. Will be forced to invest more time and resources fighting malicious content or lose user trust.

We spent more time online in 2020 than ever before (Photo: Getty)

Similarly, digital secretary Oliver Dowden recently took bold steps to regulate internet services in the UK. He promises that this is the “toughest and most comprehensive online security regime in the world”. Mr Dowden pledged to come forward with the Online Damage Act earlier this month, which would allow Ofcom to beat tech giants with multi-billion pound fines in front of Parliament in 2021, though it is unlikely to happen before 2022 comes into force.

Antitrust tensions are overflowing

Elsewhere in Europe, the European Commission recently tabled two new pieces of legislation aimed at tackling the anti-competitive practices of big tech and even the playing field for smaller startups. Ultimately, this could theoretically force companies to split up if found to be breaking the rules. This corresponds to the announcement earlier this month that the US government is suing Facebook over monopoly problems and threatening to outsource Instagram and WhatsApp to independent companies in the future. While the results of both measures will take years to complete, the next 12 months will determine how Big Tech is allowed to behave and how we, as consumers, are protected from the harm that comes with it.

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Tech in 2020: From Elon Musk’s Self-Driving Car Promise to 5G Networks and Playstation 5

With increasing regulation – with financial ramifications – and growing public dissatisfaction with the enormous inequalities and problems that the industry not only tolerates but encourages, technology will be forced to acknowledge its flaws and shortcomings in 2021. Big Tech Always Trots Out the platitude that it “welcomes the opportunity to work closely with governments,” but this year will force the world’s most powerful corporations to put their money where their mouth is – or risk the consequences.

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