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Government Intervention in Emerging Networked Technologies

Erik Lillquist

Seton Hall University - School of Law

Sarah Waldeck

Seton Hall University - School of Law

October 27, 2006

Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 940870

Some new technologies succeed, while others fail. Networks and multi-sided platforms are an important, but often-overlooked, explanation for these successes and failures. Many technologies will be successful only if their promoters can convince two (or more) sets of heterogeneous users to simultaneously embrace the technology. For example, in the case of credit cards, both consumers and merchants must decide to use the technology. For high definition (HD) televisions, both consumers and broadcasters must adopt the innovation. If only consumers adopted credit cards and HD, but merchants and broadcasters respectively did not, the technologies would fail: with no stores in which to use them, credit cards are as worthless (or perhaps even more so) than HD televisions that have no HD programming.

Because market success for many technologies requires coordination between different groups, there is a powerful incentive for innovators and entrepreneurs to get the government involved: government action, both direct and indirect, can strongly influence consumer and merchant behavior, and thereby ensure simultaneous adoption of the technology. Depending upon the situation, the government may (1) provide the information that allows individuals to coordinate their behavior; (2) pass legislation or adopt policies aimed at reducing concerns about a technology, (3) provide incentives to induce individuals to adopt new technologies, or (4) force change by eliminating or curtailing older technologies.

In this paper, we model how various groups decide whether to adopt and use networked and multi-platform technologies. We also explore when, if ever, the government should involve itself in influencing the success of such technologies. Drawing primarily on a rich set of examples from the payments industry, we conclude that the government generally should not intervene. First, technology moves fast and the government usually moves slowly. Second, with a bit of time, new technologies that are sufficiently advantageous are likely to flourish without government intervention. Third and finally, government interference may have the unintended consequence of dampening the incentive to invest in new technologies in the first instance.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 53

Keywords: Payments, Norms, Electronic Commerce, Law, Banking, Government

JEL Classification: A13, D71, E4, E40, E5, E52, H3, K20

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Date posted: October 30, 2006 ; Last revised: June 1, 2014

Suggested Citation

Lillquist, Erik and Waldeck, Sarah, Government Intervention in Emerging Networked Technologies (October 27, 2006). Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 940870. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=940870 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.940870

Contact Information

Erik Lillquist (Contact Author)
Seton Hall University - School of Law ( email )
One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States
973-642-8844 (Phone)
Sarah Waldeck
Seton Hall University - School of Law ( email )
One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States
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