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An Introduction to Online Platforms and Their Role in the Digital Transformation

image of An Introduction to Online Platforms and Their Role in the Digital Transformation

Online platforms support so many of our daily activities that we have become dependent on them in our personal and professional lives. We rely on them to buy and sell goods and services, to find information online and to keep in touch with each other. We use them for entertainment, news, transportation, accommodation, finding jobs and employees, finding apps and for many other purposes. Online platforms have also raised new and important policy questions, but the businesses themselves can be more complex than they appear so they are not always well understood. This report contains detailed profiles of twelve of the world’s leading platform companies and derives insights from those profiles about what platforms actually do, how they do it, and why they succeed financially. For example, the report finds that although platforms tend to have a number of economic characteristics in common, they also vary so greatly that they cannot be compartmentalised into just a few categories, let alone a single sector. Moreover, they do not all succeed for the same reasons. In addition, although the major Chinese platforms still have a low profile within the OECD, they are in the process of expanding globally and deserve more attention.

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Foreword

The impetus for this report is the 2016 Cancún Ministerial Declaration on the Digital Economy, which contains a commitment to study online platforms. Ministers declared they would seize the opportunities made possible by online platforms that enable innovations in production, consumption, collaboration and sharing, while studying the platforms’ social and economic benefits and challenges as well as the suitability of relevant policy and regulatory frameworks. That aspect of the Declaration is in line with recent comments from the United States business community urging that policy makers should try to better understand the benefits and potential issues that arise in the context of the ongoing platform growth. This report, moreover, is an output under the OECD’s Going Digital horizontal project.

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