Digital platforms continue to accelerate development across Asia and
the Pacific. This book describes how they transform the way we work,
socialize, and create economic value. The ongoing pandemic is helping
fuel this digital transformation. Yet, it also underscores the importance and
urgency of putting in place policies and regulations that can maximize gains
from the rapidly advancing digital economy. These range from widening access
to promote digital inclusion, e-health, and online learning, to fostering digital
ecosystems, ensuring data privacy and security, and preventing cyberattacks,
to name but a few. While coordinating national agencies is critical, regional
cooperation will also grow in importance on issues such as data transfer,
taxation, and the financing needed to boost support for sustainable and
inclusive digital development.
Digital platforms use data, search engines, and algorithms to reduce
the cost of acquiring and applying information, bypass intermediaries, reduce
trade barriers, ease customs clearance, and use idle assets to lower production
and distribution costs. They also lower the cost of services to households and
businesses—everything from food delivery to banking and e-commerce. They
enhance market efficiency and, if used effectively, can help improve diversity
and inclusion in the market and workplaces.
But just like any new technology, digital platforms disrupt existing
markets and force market players to adapt. As they create new marketplaces
where producers, service providers, workers, and consumers interact, some
platforms that create massive networks tend to amass extraordinary market
power. Access to big data and their exclusive use allow digital platforms
to innovate and create new products and services. But they can also grow
monopolistic. Privacy and cybersecurity issues increasingly impact both
users and consumers.

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