Global Forces

Alternative futures for global digital ecosystems

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The Foresight Center prepared a background report on global digital ecosystems and  different scenarios developed by international and national organizations. The difference and similarities in these scenarios are summarized and implications for Estonia are highlighted. As a result, three metacenarios were developed.

Private platform ecosystem

Dominance of large private platforms globally – particularly from China and US. Global gated communities where Access depends on consumer’s value. Collaboration among various platforms in AI and other fields. Limited ability of governments and public international organizations to direct platform ecosystems as private platforms are the main rule-makers. Provision of (semi-)public goods by private platforms.

Government ecosystem

Dominance of government platforms, splinternet globally. Emergence of New IP in China and affiliated countries. The use of old IP in the US and among its allies. Reduced economies of scale and network effects. Dominance of larger countries over smaller in regional blocs. Transparency and openness in some blocs while not in others.

Decentralized ecosystem

Diversity of platform ecosystems, multiple private, community, national and global  solutions. Divergence in regulatory approaches. The dominance of old IP while some states experiment with new IP. Some states offer solutions topdown fashion while others rely on a bottom-up approach by relying on private and community actors. Different capacities and capabilities create benefits of decentralized innovation but also lead to inequalities and risks.

Even though these scenarios are developed within specific business and policy frameworks, they do offer generic trade-offs for Estonia. One robust takeaway is that countries can leapfrog technological developments against all odds.

The world dominated by large private platforms implies that it is challenging to resist the efficiency of large global platforms in the domestic platform ecosystem. Many services will be offered by global private platforms – most likely from China and the United States – at the expense of equity and domestic stakeholder engagement. It may be efficient but not democratic. These platforms will also transfer money and power out of the country, and redistribute resources from local platforms to global platforms.

The world dominated government platforms impose risks for Estonia for losing the control of their platform ecosystem to some other government that dominates the regional bloc and splinternet. In this scenario, countries have to be particularly careful in navigating competitive terrain. However, it also offers opportunities for developing government platforms which may have regional appeal.

The decentralized world seems appealing to Estonia. Many new opportunities may emerge for government, private sector, and civil society with variation and diversity. However, it also carries risks of higher transaction costs and thus lower efficiency. The key question here is whether co-creation and networked platform ecosystems will allow mitigating trade-offs between equity and efficiency or will a more equitable system operate at the expense of efficiency.

Author: Meelis Kitsing, Head of Research, Foresight Centre