Understanding the Costs and Benefits of the Platform Economy: Implications for Developing Asia

Conference dates

04 Dec 2019 - 05 Dec 2019


ADB Headquarters, Manila, Philippines


The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department and the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) are organizing a two-day international conference to be held at the ADB Headquarters, Manila, Philippines on 4-5 December 2019.

The last decade has seen the rise of digital platforms, catalyzing value-creating interactions between various groups of participants, either in two-sided markets where two distinct types of participants interact (e.g., ride-hailing apps and food delivery apps) or multi-sided markets such as Google, a search engine which connects users, content providers, and advertisers. Digital technologies such as the internet have created powerful technologically enabled networks or marketplaces that significantly lowered the cost of acquiring and using information, thus, lowering transaction costs and production costs. With these reduced costs, the internet affects economic development in three major, interrelated ways (World Bank 2016):

• Inclusion (search and information) - The internet can help overcome data gaps and information asymmetries. The emergence of e-commerce platforms, for example, has made it much easier for small producers to find and connect with customers and to sell even whether within national or overseas markets (that were not previously available to them).

• Efficiency (automation and coordination) - The internet also augments the factors of production. It reduces the cost of existing transactions (e.g., inventory management), which significantly improves efficiency allowing firms to make better use of their capital and labor. Higher efficiency can be experienced by different sectors of the economy from households, enterprises, industries, and the public sector.

• Innovation (scale economies and platforms) - the internet enhances innovation by enabling firms to exploit economies of scale through online platforms and services that compete with conventional business models, such as Facebook (in media), Amazon and Alibaba (in retail), Uber and Grab (in transport), and Airbnb (in lodging).

With the further growth of digital platforms, the following issues will require careful attention and analyses:

Competition: a) their network and scale effects; b) their effects on upstream and downstream industries; c) their impact on economic development through the participation of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSME); and d) the effect of digital divide as evident in the differences in access or usage.

Sectoral: a) their effect on the labor market, job matching, and labor protection; b) their effects on taxation through base erosion and profit shifting; c) their effects on the financial sector role of trade and digital trade policies; and d) their effects on public sector and the delivery of social services.

Security, privacy, and regulation-related: a) their effects on data privacy, consumer rights, and the required consumer education; b) issues of cyber-related crimes, money-laundering, and terrorism finance; c) how to manage intermediary liability such as copyright violations and counterfeit products, responsibility over moderating hate speech, libel and disinformation; and d) the type of legal framework and regulatory measures that are needed to manage these risks.

Amid the proliferation of platform economy in our day-to-day life, there is a need to understand the breadth, scope, and impact of the platform economy in our economic life. This conference will gather leading academics, policymakers, and international organizations to discuss the scope, framework, measurement, and issues related to the platform economy. The topics of discussion include, but not limited to, the following:

1) Concept, Scope, and Framework of Platform Economy
• How do we define the platform economy? What is the scope of the platform economy? What are the various business models comprising this economy? Who are the users of the platform economy? How is value created and how are the risks and rewards distributed among the users?
• How are the current statistical frameworks capturing the platform economy? What improvements are needed to adequately cover digital platforms and services in statistical classification systems? How can administrative data and new data sources be expanded to link them with digitalization?

2) Benefits and Costs of Platform Economy: Evidence and Implications
• How does the platform economy affect economic activities, development, and growth?
• Costs and benefits from increasing dominance of digital platforms (Amazon, Google, Alibaba, etc.)
• Estimates of MSME participation in digital platforms; Case studies on the impact of digital platforms on MSME operations and formalization; impact on the internationalization of MSMEs
• Estimates of trends, patterns and implications of the different forms of digital labor markets

3) The Emergence of Platform Economy: Issues, Challenges and Prospects
• What are the issues, challenges and prospects related to the growth of the platform economy?
• What are emerging intra- and inter-sectoral shifts, and/or convergence arising from platform economy?
• How does the digital divide affect the development of the platform economy?
• What are the policy gaps and what are some best practices for regulating platform economy?

4) The Future of Platform Economy: Lessons and Policy Options
• How should countries manage the growth of platform economies? What are some of the critical issues that need to be taken into consideration?
• How will digital platforms shape regional integration?
• What is the role of regional cooperation in managing the growth of platform economies? What role should be taken by multilateral development banks such as the ADB?

The Selection Committee for the conference program consists of ADB and PIDS senior researchers. Submitted papers will go through a blind review process. Authors who wish to send their research papers to the conference must send two versions of their papers in pdf format (one version should not have the names and affiliations of the authors). The first page of the paper should only contain the abstract.


Deadline for submission of Title and Abstract 9 August 2019
Notification of acceptance 19 Aug 2019
Submission of Annotated Outline 16 September 2019
Conference date 4-5 December 2019

PAPER SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: Please send your response to this Call for Papers to:

James Villafuerte (Email: jamesvillafuerte@adb.org)
Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department
Asian Development Bank

Paulo Halili (Email: phalili@adb.org)
Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department
Asian Development Bank

Ramonette B. Serafica (Email: rserafica@mail.pids.gov.ph)
Senior Research Fellow
Philippine Institute for Development Studies

All submissions should be forwarded via email with the subject line “ADBplatform_{your last name}_{paper title}”. Only selected manuscripts will be notified. For each accepted manuscript, the ADB will cover the cost of one round trip, economy class airfare, hotel accommodation, and daily subsistence allowance for the duration of the conference. Selected papers presented in the conference could be considered for publication in a special issue of the Asian Development Review based on the interest of the author/s.