Digital platforms and data
The IPPR Commission on Economic Justice is seeking evidence for a project on digital platform companies and the use of digital data. This project will produce a policy report to stimulate wider debate on the topic and will contribute to the Commission’s final report.
The Commission is seeking to understand the activities and impacts of digital platform companies on economic and, to a lesser extent, social systems and set out recommendations on how public policy can seek to maximise the positive potential of digital platforms and the data they collect and analyse. We use the term “digital platform” to refer to a company or digital service which organises and structures economic activity, such as Facebook and Amazon.
We particularly welcome submissions that review the policy regimes of other countries and the EU seeking to formulate an effective public policy response to digital platforms.
Key questions and areas of interest include:
- Understanding the impact of platforms
- What impacts are digital platforms having on sectors across the UK economy?
- Major platforms, particularly Facebook, Google and Amazon, are exhibiting oligopolistic or monopolistic behaviour. Is this inhibiting the pace and potential of innovation in and out of the digital economy?
- Platforms are enjoying ‘supernormal’ returns and market capitalisation values that are setting them apart from large firms in other sectors and, as a result, could be contributing to a rise in the share of income going to profit over labour. Are platforms increasing inequality?
- Are the business models of platforms having a negative impact on social relations and human health?
- Are platforms exerting large political power through lobbying operations and their impact on existing and emerging means of sharing information, among other factors? What are the implications of this?
- The future of platforms in an evolving economy
- Do the particular characteristics of digital platforms (such as low marginal costs and network effects) necessarily tend them toward monopolistic behaviour?
- Major platforms have a high rate of merger and acquisition of smaller companies across sectors, a strongly proprietorial approach to data, and seek to maximise user-ship of their services at the expense of others. Are these behaviours an inevitable outcome of the platform economy, or could they be ameliorated?
- By being able to draw on large datasets and research and development budgets, platforms have a head start in the development of artificial intelligence (AI). As AI becomes more important, what are the implications of a small number of platforms already emerging as dominant players in the development and use of AI?
- Policy responses
- What public policies can open access to platform data and its innovation potential to a wider set of stakeholders across the economy?
- Can competition policy regulate or limit the monopolistic tendencies of platform economy? How? Can this be done by individual national governments or does it require multinational action?
- How can tax avoidance by platform firms be reduced?
- What alternative ownership models might be usable for digital platforms?
- In which sectors might non-private actors meaningfully enter platform markets?
We welcome submissions focusing on individual questions and issues as well as those addressing the field as a whole. We would be glad to receive work which has already been published or otherwise already written but which we may not have seen.