Economies, governments and societies across the globe are going digital. Although already underway for nearly half a century, the pace of change has quickened, as digital technologies develop rapidly and combine in novel and innovative ways, pushing digital transformation in new and often unpredictable directions. At the same time, the further deployment of communications infrastructure, the proliferation of digital technologies such as smart phones that allow ubiquitous computing, and the generation of huge volumes of data of all kinds, are turning data into an important, strategic asset. Digital technologies and large-scale data flows fundamentally change how people live and work, interact with one another, participate in the economy, and engage with the government.

Many now compare digital transformation with earlier industrial transformations propelled by general-purpose technologies like steam or electricity. Whether it is the Second Machine Age, the Third Wave, Industrie 4.0 or Society 5.0, significant shifts are underway. Digital transformation affects all countries across the globe, and the importance of digital technologies is underscored in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, where access to information and communication technologies and universal and affordable access to the Internet is one of the key targets to transform our world.

The ongoing digital transformation of the economy and society holds many promises to spur innovation, generate efficiencies, and improve services, and in doing so boost productivity growth. Digital technologies also make it easier for people to participate in economic and social activities. Yet such benefits come with new challenges as digital transformation changes the nature and structure of organisations, markets and communities, and raises concerns around jobs and skills, privacy and security, as well as notions of equity and inclusion.

Realising the opportunities and addressing the challenges is not automatic and may require policy action to make digital transformation work for growth and well-being. There is currently a window of opportunity for individuals, governments and all stakeholders to shape a digital future that makes the most of the immense opportunities that digital transformation holds to improve people’s lives, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

This report brings together what we know about how policy can help – as well as areas and issues we need to better understand – to ensure that digital transformation benefits all by increasing growth and improving well-being. It reflects the work undertaken in the OECD’s Going Digital project over 2017-18 as well as other relevant OECD work on digital transformation. It aims to increase an understanding of the drivers of digital transformation, and offers a whole-of-economy and society perspective on key digital trends, impacts, and issues that require co-ordinated policy action. It also sets out an ambitious future digital agenda for the OECD and beyond.

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