IGF 2020 WS #118 Economy of platforms - between exploration and exploitation


Organizer 1: Government, Eastern European Group
Organizer 2: Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 3: Government, Eastern European Group
Organizer 4: Government, Eastern European Group

Speaker 1: Belinda Exelby, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Ben Wallis, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Timea Suto, Private Sector, Eastern European Group


Debate - Auditorium - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

How to convince citizens that unavoidable changes are not leading to workless society? The jobs market will be different and has been already going through transformation – but it does not mean that human factor will be replaced by algorithms. There will be some sort of balance – the question is what will be its nature, how things will settle down? To portray the future and digital platform economy as challenging yet full of opportunities, policy has to abstain from fear perspective and instead lean towards flexibility. Then the question is how to make a step forward in so far order of law/code creation? It is rather a methodological dilemma, a meta-level of regulation and policy making. We should ask first how to create rules and not what these rules should be. The rules will depend on a certain sector of the platform economy. It is not anymore silo-style, nothing is made once and nothing is made for all. The system of platforms is complex and far from uniform. Therefore, we could ask for establishment of design principles – what these should be? What are the core design principles in the world of platform economy? How to tackle a notion of power and control? The first one is definitely being generated and accumulated by the platforms’ owners. While they have control over the market, how to control them? What should be nature of this control? Will the platform economy, and the reorganization it portends, catalyze economic growth and a surge in productivity driven by a new generation of entrepreneurs? How to develop policies promoting fairness for business users of online intermediation services and transparency for consumers?

In line to above mentioned description, the economy of platforms is a multidimensional issue. It poses significant questions, challenges and opportunities for societies, the labour market and organizations. The intention of the organizer is to underline and cover, primarily, social and economic aspects of this complex phenomenon. Undoubtedly, the platform economy is disrupting the general concept of conventional way of working and changing the face of business. The aim of the session is also to try to define, with multistakeholder approach, how the platform economy will catalyze both economic growth and social changes.


GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-Being
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 12: Responsible Production and Consumption


Digital platform economy is growing very fast and in the time of pandemic and social distancing it enhanced the position of many platforms in the economy. Infrastructures created by platforms’ owners open new ways for human activities and change how we work, collaborate, create value in the economy, and compete for the resulting profits. We are witnessing dynamic growth of digitally enabled activities in business, politics, and social interactions organized around these digital platforms. The application of big data, new algorithms, and cloud computing will change not only the nature of work but also the structure of the economy in itself. While some experts indicate that the platform economy opens new opportunities for disruptive businesses, others ask questions concerning the impact on employment, consequences of algorithmically driven growth, relations between platforms’ owners and new generation of entrepreneurs or repositioning of power in the economic system. The exact nature of that transformation will be determined by the social, political, and business choices we make including a choice between approaches based on exploration and exploitation. Exploration is about discovering new opportunities and enhancing learning. This kind of activity is characterized by knowledge creation, risk taking, experimentation, and innovation. In contrast, exploitation leverages existing knowledge and technologies to commercialize established products or product extensions or enter new markets at lower costs. In the era of the platform economy many questions remain open. The debate over policy will not be straightforward because it will not only define market rules but also choices and decisions. The goal of the above delineated session is to meet the most pressuring challenges of regulation of the digital platforms economy. How to ensure inclusive participation of all the entities willing to operate within the already existing and rapidly developing system? How to make sure that there is a relative balance between all the players of this system? The multistakeholder environment of this panel will be a fertile ground allowing to answer these and all the other arising questions.

Expected Outcomes

The primary outcome of the session will be launching open opportunity for speakers and attendees to contribute to the post-session guideline or guidelines, with its aim to support policy makers in shaping the future of platform economy. The discussion undertakes during the panel will lead to improved understanding of the array of activities that aim to promote the economy of platforms within countries, and the range of strategies and policies that underpin these activities. The session will stimulate and facilitate longer-term communication and cooperation between different stakeholders, researchers and practitioners in their effort to support evidence-based policy outcomes. Key follow up products that will be created and disseminated during and after the proposed session will comprise the following: session report, press release, web publications.

The session organizers, moderator and speakers will use icebreakers to make the audience more comfortable sharing. It is also planned to ask the volunteers to share why they take part in this session and what they are looking to get out of the event. The organizers will also use a social media display with dedicated hashtags specific to the event and the panel. Moderator and speakers will ask questions which may be general, rhetorical or spark stories. They will also ask participants for feedback shortly after the session concludes. These actions depend on the size of the crowd and how much time moderator or speaker has.

Relevance to Internet Governance: As it is emphasized by the host country of IGF 2020, the economy of platforms is one of the key issue to be concerned during the upcoming edition of the conference. Undoubtedly, Internet connectivity and rapid development of digital technology generate innovative new solutions, services, capabilities and unprecedented forms of sharing and cooperation, including the economy of platforms. As a result, the development of the platform economy requires that the existing systems of regulation and internet governance be completely overhauled in order to respond to the new trends.

Relevance to Theme: Digital platforms are giving rise to new needs by creating and bridging barriers to financial, social and economic inclusion. These platforms can have both positive and negative effects on development and will be shaped by the responses of industry, regulators, government and civil society. Undoubtedly, platforms conglomerate use their scale as a force for good, e.g. by promoting economic inclusion.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.