As we move further towards an open data economy, public investment in developing and maintaining the open data ecosystem will be critical to its prosperity.
Olivier Colin is an advisor to the Belgian government where his work includes fiscal policy, finance, health care and the digital economy. He holds a degree in business engineering from the Solvay Brussels School and in economics from the College of Europe.
Tim Conway, Global Digital Foundation's Asia-Pacific Director in conversation with David Pembroke, Founder and CEO of Content Group on Tuesday June 27.
The idea that internet platform businesses are anti-competitive is the opposite of the truth
The disruptive impact of digital platforms on the traditional news industry offers the best case study for understanding the economics of the Internet. Everywhere we look newspapers are losing market share, laying off workers and, in some cases, moving to digital only editions. At the center of this and most other Internet-driven disruption is the multi-sided, digital platform. Some policymakers seem unable to get their head around the basic economic principles of platforms. Everywhere, politicians, regulators and commentators express anxiety about them. They are accused of cornering markets in personal data, thereby threatening competition, of invading privacy, facilitating fake news, enabling extremist propaganda and more. None of these anxieties is well founded. When it comes to privacy, fake news, and extremist propaganda, regulators and platform companies are in the business of striking balances. Is extremist content being removed quickly enough? Is fake news being flagged as ‘unverified’? Do consumers understand how their data is being used? But the idea that platforms threaten competition is not only ill founded, it is against the interests of the very people competition law is supposed to protect, consumers.
Some reflections on the Reuters Institute 2016 Digital News Report (II)
The Reuters Institute Digital News Report for 2016 is not happy reading for news organisations. A ‘perfect storm’ has hit traditional news companies and new digital players as consumers move to online platforms and digital devices for their news. The widespread use of ad-blockers, said to be much higher amongst the under 35s, is threatening both traditional online news providers and their new all-digital rivals. Also, the number of people willing to pay for online news is very low—under 10% in the English-speaking world. The results include missed financial targets and layoffs in print publishers like UK’s Independent and online news organisations like Buzzfeed and Mashable.
Some reflections on the Reuters Institute 2016 Digital News Report (I)
Where consumers get their news is changing. Over half of the respondents to a survey by the Reuters Institute reported that they use social media as a news source each week. Twelve percent reported that Facebook was their ‘main source’ of weekly news. Increasing reliance on social media for news is a cause of anxiety for two reasons. First, because Facebook gives users the option to prioritise news and opinions that their friends are reading, it is thought that users can create their own echo chambers of agreeable opinions, putting them at greater risk of normalising extremism. Then there is the appearance of fake news on newsfeeds. The timely placement of falsehoods in newsfeeds has created fear that social networks have become the Achilles heel of democracy, prey to manipulation by dark political forces.
The debate about digital technology and its impact is between optimists and pessimists. Optimists believe that technology’s innovations, which include new types of economic organisation, will solve many problems, from eradicating poverty to curing disease. Pessimists believe that ‘innovation’ has come to mean disrupting our societies and eroding traditional economic models. What better way to test our hopes and fears about digital technology than to see the world through the eyes of its consumers? Unfortunately much discussion about the impact of digital technology either ignores them or assumes that their role in the digital economy is passive.
On April 11 ETNO, which represents European telcos, published the results of a European consumer survey commissioned from IPSOS. The survey tells an important story about consumers’ expectations that they will increasingly rely on Europe’s fixed and mobile communications infrastructure to shop and amuse themselves online. Another important, if unsurprising, finding is that broadband coverage in Europe is good and appears, in the eyes of consumers, to offer reasonable value for money.