Policy Frameworks for Digital Platforms: Moving from Openness to Inclusion

Platforms are to the network age what the factory was to the industrial revolution. From popular imagination to research activity, there is a palpable sense of a new turn in economic reorganization, implicating productivity, growth, jobs and skills in the future economy. The dominant mood is about innovation and opportunity. However, there is a need at this moment to pause and ask if this overarching sentiment is justified and what the economic turn that platforms portend mean for our future societies and economies. As with all times of paradigmatic change, institutions are falling behind in their attempts to understand what in effect constitutes the social project of public policy making in relation to the platform economy. With support from International Development Research Council (IDRC), IT for Change in 2017 embarked on a project titled ‘Policy frameworks for digital platforms – Moving from openness to inclusion’. This research project was aimed at exploring and articulating the institutional-legal arrangements that are adequate to a future economy that best serves the ideas of development justice; where considerations about economic and distributive justice are primary. The project was completed in late 2019.

Project Outputs

Synthesis Reports

Platform Planet: Development in the Intelligence Economy

This report was produced as part of the research project ‘Policy frameworks for digital platforms - Moving from openness to inclusion’. The project seeks to explore and articulate institutional-legal arrangements that are adequate to a future economy that best serves the ideas of development justice. This initiative is led by IT for Change, India, and supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada.

This multi-country, cross-sectoral research project brings together learnings from a range of socio-economic contexts across the world, on the platformization phenomenon. The report analyzes a range of critical issues around governance of digital platforms, with a particular focus on the political economy of platformization.

Policies for the Platform Economy: Current Trends and Future Directions

This report presents emerging insights from the research studies being undertaken under the project. Covering 14 countries and a range of domains and sectors, it examines the current trends in platformization, mapping the emerging policy responses and challenges.

This report compiles emerging reflections and insights from the research project ‘Policy frameworks for digital platforms - Moving from openness to inclusion’. The project seeks to explore and articulate institutional-legal arrangements that are adequate to a future economy that best serves the ideas of development justice. This work is drawn from preliminary research being undertaken by an interdisciplinary research network from the global South and North.

Policy Brief - What Development Actors Need to Know About e-Commerce

E-commerce platforms have radically reorganized economic activity, given rise to new structures of intermediation and changed the conception of global trade altogether. These platforms are not merely digital market places but in effect, consummate digital ecosystems that underlie the new architecture for the global economy. And yet structural inequities in opportunities and access between actors in developed and developing nations continue to persist. The possibilities for the Internet to be the equalizer of digital trade stands heavily contested. This policy brief touches upon some of these issues and their implications for actors in developing nations and offers recommendations.

 

Background Paper: ‘Policy Frameworks for Digital Platforms- Moving from Openness to Inclusion’

Platforms are to the network age what the factory was to the industrial revolution – the principal site of economic activity around which everything else is organized. In this background paper, IT for Change maps the key issues/concerns for the rights and inclusion agenda, stemming from pervasive platformization. Scoping the platform economy from a development justice perspective, this paper outlines the many intersecting challenges that platforms pose for regulation and puts forth a research agenda to address the same.

It highlights the need to clarify conceptual frameworks at the intersection of digital, economic and social policies as well as map the operations of the platform economy to understand how they impact distributive, economic, social and environmental justice.

Research Framework: ‘Policy Frameworks for Digital Platforms - Moving from Openness to Inclusion’

In this document, we build on the background paper to put forth a research framework for ‘Policy Frameworks for Digital Platforms - Moving from Openness to Inclusion’. First, we outline and clarify a shared understanding of key concepts invoked in this project. Second, we offer a broad meta research framework for the project. This framework has been constructed ground-up from a synthesis of the research proposals from the network. It is intended to serve as the common basis upon which the different research projects will develop their respective research design.
 

Think Pieces

Platform as Infrastructure and the Rise of Ant Financial in China

This paper looks at the recent rise of Ant Financial, an affiliate fintech company of the Chinese Alibaba group, to elucidate the double articulation of “platformization” and “infrastructuralization” in China. The paper highlights three mini cases– the Alipay dispute in 2011, the Yu’ebao drama in 2013 and the monetization of Sesame Credit in 2016. In doing so, it foregrounds the power dynamics that have animated and characterized the Chinese-style “platform capitalism.”

See, Nudge, Control and Profit: Digital Platforms as Privatized Epistemic Infrastructures

This paper explores the various ways in which digital platforms are reshaping competitive knowledge production systems within economies. It argues that while digital platforms and technologies have certain technological features that pose ‘developmental challenges,’ political perceptions and coalitions will shape how each society responds to these technological affordances.

Show me the Money! Worker Well-Being on Labor Platforms in India

This essay studies perspectives of blue-collar workers on ride-hailing and home-service platforms in India to asses and evaluate worker well-being in the platform economy. The paper outlines a range of potential issues that arise for labor on digital platforms and draws on different disciplinary perspectives on well-being to identify the facets that may be relevant for labor platforms in the global south.

Tipping the Scale: Notes on the Topologies of Big Data Platforms

Big data platforms may not be the planet, but they are similarly impersonal and vast and are known through their own mythologies, metaphors and imaginaries. In presenting the entanglements and mathematical shaping of and in platforms, this essay reflects on the topologies of platforms - not just their shapes, but also the imaginaries of power and agency they shape.

Research Papers

Deliver on the Promise of the Platform Economy

This paper examines the influence of digital platforms on Chinese workers across two booming on demand service industries: ride-hailing and food-delivery. Though digital platforms have attracted considerable scholarly and legal attention in the past few years, this project is among one of the first to center on worker’s experience, and through their lens, to understand the impact of platformization of work in China. The study offers valuable insights on work conditions, worker’s struggles, resistance and autonomy; highlights the gaps in existing policies and puts forward empirically informed policy suggestions toward inclusive development in the digital era in the areas of labor protection, platform governance, and value redistribution.

Data Policies: Regulatory Approaches for Data-Driven Platforms in the UK and EU

This report analyzes the implications of current policy reform for data collection, analysis and sharing via platforms. In particular, it interrogates emerging regulatory frameworks that shape, constrain or advance citizens’ control over data that concerns them and that affects their lives. The report focuses on the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK Investigatory Powers (IP) Act and the UK Digital Economy (DE) Act but addresses broader regulatory trends that emerge from these.

Making Travel Platforms Work for Indonesian Workers and Small Businesses

This research details how Indonesians working in the tourism sector are included or excluded from the travel platform economy. It investigates why these actors are choosing to use travel platforms and how they express the benefits and constraints in this context. Inclusion in the platform economy involves understanding and addressing structures of inequality that prevent workers and SMEs from exploring the opportunities that platforms afford. Poverty is clearly a barrier that inhibits actors from inclusion, and that policy must address towards inclusive impact of platforms. Competition and algorithmic opacity are also key factors consistently disadvantaging SMEs in the platform economy.

Protection of Users in the Platform Economy: A European Perspective

This report aims to investigate the current gaps in protection suffered by users of the platform economy in Europe and to propose legal solutions. The research particularly focuses on the inequalities (understood as information asymmetries affecting the weak party) and unfair practices experienced by end-users (consumers) and providers (workers) of online platforms. The study explores both the demand side i.e. the relationship between the platform and its end-users and the supply side i.e. relationship between the platform and workers operating online.

Investigating Labor Policy Frameworks for Ride-Hailing Platforms

This research project investigates the institutional, policy and operational dynamics of ride-hailing platforms in South Africa. A limited number of studies on platform economies in African nations have been conducted from business and economics perspectives that often do not focus on issues of inequality, poverty, economic inclusion and social justice. This study endeavored to fill this gap by focusing on the operational dynamics of Uber and Taxify in the South African context. It also explores the social-relational aspects of the transport platform ecosystem, looking at how interests are ordered, and power is structured among actors (especially between platform owners, drivers, metered taxi operators, government authorities in an African context).

Peer to Peer Lending Platforms as Tools for Financial Inclusion in Uruguay

This research explores Peer-to-Peer lending platforms as one of the many solutions within the Fintech industry that are aimed at alleviating the issue of financial exclusion. These platforms provide the technology and the means to reach out to those segments of the population left unserved by the traditional financial market. They have the potential to ease access (both in terms of infrastructure and range of available products) to financial products that fit the needs of those unbanked or underbanked, lower operational costs (easing some of the burden that is translated into higher interest rates) and reach out to key segments – such as SMEs – that are of vital importance in terms of a country’s sustainable economic development. The research offers policy recommendations on how to ensure inclusivity through these platforms.

Towards Inclusive Platformization in Nigeria

This study provides evidence from the Nigerian context to complement the global debate on designing appropriate regulatory frameworks for platforms that ensure accountability of platform providers to the societies in which they operate. The key research questions comprised the following: a) What are the key concerns/challenges for inclusion that are posed by the new business models of the platform economy? b) What new legal frameworks are needed in the platform economy to make it more inclusive? c) To what extent do the consumer protection and privacy rules of the platform compare with global standards and align with existing policy frameworks? d) What new legal frameworks are needed in the platform economy to make it better governed?

Digitization and Domestic Work: The Policy Environment in the Philippines

In recent years, the Philippines has seen a trend of platformization in domestic and care work through small-scale digital platforms that offer on-demand cleaning services. The nascent and informal nature of this system has given rise to new modes of employment and labor relationships that do not conform with the traditional models of domestic work recognized by Philippine law. This report maps out this new ecosystem, analyzes the impact of digital platforms from the lens of social protection and questions whether the emerging models that result from such platformization transform or preserve long-standing narratives of domestic work as feminized, invisible and undervalued work. It offers policy recommendations towards equitable rights and working conditions for domestic workers engaged in platform-mediated work.

Bits and Film: Policy for Digital Platforms in Media and Audio-Visual Markets in Brazil

Over-the-Top (OTT) services have been exponentially growing over the past few years. This has caused controversy among different players in the country’s audiovisual market. Meanwhile, national infrastructure problems and inequalities remain an obstacle to universalizing VoD services. Connectivity in Brazil remains geographically and economically unequal, and such inequalities reflect in audience make-up, which could impact content production and programming and the audiovisual market as a whole. This study explores questions such as balancing focus of regulatory discussion between taxation and more complex discussions around diversity policies, and does embracing new production and creative processes throw into question the cultural legitimacy of content.

 

Policy Overviews

Research and Policy Making Through the Data of Platform Enterprises

This paper explores changes in General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in greater detail, explaining how they are relevant to the platform economy in Canada. It then discusses Canada’s current data policies, and the surrounding policy community, which is currently in transition. Finally, it lays out some of the limitations of the current data-policy framework in Canada, and suggests ways in which the platform economy may influence a discussion around policy reform or renovation.

Protection of Users in the Platform Economy: A European Perspective

This report examines the state of policy and regulations regarding the protection of platform users within the European Union with a focus on the following countries: Belgium, France, and Italy. We provide a brief overview of the institutional context as well as that of the internet infrastructures in the geographic area covered by our study.

Data Policies: Regulatory Approaches for Data-Driven Platforms in the UK and EU

This report reviews how data collection and analysis on platforms is regulated and investigates recent trends and developments. It focuses on a particular jurisdiction – the United Kingdom (UK) – to offer a perspective on an advanced economy where platforms play a significant role in social and economic life.

 

Digital Platforms for Ride-Hailing and Food-Delivery Services in China

By examining case studies on digital platforms for ride-hailing and food-delivery services, this overview aims to chart the digital policy landscape for the platform economy in China. Section two presents a review of two relevant categories of policies: internet laws, policies, and regulations, and government documents on development strategies pertaining to digital economy. Section three maps out and assesses existing regulations and policies on these labor platforms at both national and local levels (where applicable). This report concludes with a brief reflection on the gaps in the state of play of the governance of digital labor platforms in China.

Towards Inclusive Platformization in Nigeria

This overview looks at the indices and indicators of the country’s platform economy and assesses its digital policy landscape. It maps platformization in policy and praxis and then concludes with policy recommendations to enhance governance and inclusion.

Making Travel Platforms Work for Indonesian Workers and Small Businesses

This policy overview serves as precursor to our investigation of platforms within Indonesia’s travel sector. It provides a succinct snapshot of the contextual factors that are important to consider. These factors include policy and practice in the tourism sector and Indonesia’s digital policy landscape. The policy overview ends by critically evaluating whether and how the current policy environment responds to the challenges introduced by travel platform policy and praxis in Indonesia.

Digitization and Domestic Work: The Policy Environment in the Philippines

This policy overview maps the evolving digital policy landscape in the Philippines, particularly in relation to the startup ecosystem that constitutes a significant fraction of the platform economy in the country. The report lays out the context for a case study on the platformization of care work in the Philippines and therefore includes a review of relevant laws and policies such as those on labor contracting, domestic work, taxation, and e-commerce.

Peer to Peer Lending Platforms as Tools for Financial Inclusion in Uruguay

This overview discusses the Fintech ecosystem in Uruguay, the key issues in Peer to Peer Lending Governance and the challenge of financial inclusion. It throws light at the regional regulatory frameworks as well as that of Uruguay.

 

Policy Briefs

Research and Policy Making Through the Data of Platform Enterprises

This study examines two goods sharing platforms in the Vancouver, British Columbia area with a view to understanding how they collect, manage and use data; the logic that informs their business practices; how they value data; and what this means for the nature of the emerging data regime in Canada, and its data power structures.

Data Policies: Towards Citizen-Centric Regulation

This policy brief reviews current trends in the regulation of data collection and analysis with a focus on platforms. In particular, it interrogates emerging regulatory frameworks that shape, constrain, or advance citizens’ control over personal (and related) data. In doing so, it points to areas of necessary intervention to address citizen needs and concerns.

Making Travel Platforms Work for Indonesian Workers and Small Businesses

This research concentrates on how and why platforms are disrupting and re-orchestrating the tourism market. It is focused on how and why Indonesian small businesses and marginalized workers have benefited from, and been disadvantaged by both the use and non-use of travel platforms. It emphasizes the importance of travel platform data ownership and management for sustainable tourism development.

Digitization and Domestic Work: The Policy Environment in the Philippines

The study ‘Overworked and Undervalued: Are Local Digital Platforms Transforming the Narratives of Care Workers in the Philippines?’ explores the platformization of domestic work and the surrounding ecosystem in the Philippines. The study questions whether the emerging models that result from such platformization transform or preserve long-standing narratives of domestic work. This brief offers policy directions that the researchers have identified as necessary for the development of an inclusive platform economy in the Philippines in the sector of on-demand service work.

Deliver on the Promise of the Platform Economy

This brief discusses the context for the rise of on-demand service platforms in China and their policy and praxis. It identifies key gaps in policy and offers recommendations.

Investigating Labor Policy Frameworks for Ride-Hailing Platforms

This policy brief is based on findings from a study of the operational and labor frameworks of ride sharing platforms in South Africa. The study focused on Uber and Taxify’s operations in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban.

Protection of Users in the Platform Economy: A European Perspective

“Platformization” has introduced a paradigm shift in the global economy, having an impact that has been defined as “disruptive”. Our research team has investigated how effectively the existing legal framework was grasping with digital inequalities and unfair practices experienced by end-users (consumers) and suppliers (workers) of online platforms, as well as the quality of the relationship between the platform and the workers operating online (on-demand and crowd-work). To this end, we performed a survey during the summer of 2018 (July-September) and selected interviews with consumers based in Belgium, France and Italy. We also conducted interviews with Belgian representatives of a trade union organizations and inspections services. The survey and the interview allowed our team to identify the practical hurdles that users are currently facing. On this basis, we identified potential solutions, which we detail in this policy brief.

Towards Inclusive Platformization in Nigeria

An attempt was made to look into the platform economy in Nigeria, analyze its institutional-regulatory context and examine cross-cutting issues, which include trust and consumer protection, terms of use, multilateral trade regimes, and their implications for the platform economy and Nigeria’s economy as a whole. Based on our analysis, this policy brief contains recommendations to promote inclusion as well as enhance governance of the platform economy

 

More outputs from the project can be found on the project microsite here.

 

 

Focus Areas
What We Do
Resource Type
platform project