Digital technology is delivering a huge range of benefits to businesses, citizens and wider society. Platforms – online applications that intermediate between the provider of a service and its users – have unlocked many of these benefits by sorting and connecting an enormous range of services and products, both online and off.

At the forefront of the platform economy are Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon and Apple – they have accumulated the most data, developed the most advanced analytical capabilities and gained greatest ownership of the foundational infrastructure, from mapping to cloud computing, that underpins all digital technology. As such, we refer to them as the ‘universal platforms’ and their ambitions are the focus of this report.