Platforms and Ecosystems: Enabling the Digital Economy

This briefing paper forms part of the World Economic Forum System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and Society, initiated against a backdrop of complexities brought about by digital platforms and ecosystems. Significant changes have come from diverse angles at the macro and micro levels, affecting commercial and financial models, employment, and societal or regulatory issues. The paper examines how digital platforms and ecosystems are created, nurtured, managed and governed, and the intelligence gathered is as critical to the private sector as it is to the public sphere.

For the private sector, digital platforms come with the promise of exponential growth, scale through network effects and no assets needed. The biggest digital platforms outperformed the S&P 500 over the last decade. Research shows that emerging digital ecosystems could account for more than $60 trillion in revenue by 2025 (or more than 30% of global corporate revenue), and yet only 3% of established companies have adopted an active platform strategy.

For the public sector, digital platforms and ecosystems are designed as core strategic elements for smart cities and smart nations. Future policies can have a significant impact on how quickly platforms can grow and start creating economic and social value at scale. There are thus important governance choices requiring strong private-public collaboration in order to maximize the positive impact of digital platforms for both industry and society.

25 March 2019