Liberty Discussion on ‘Reimagining the Platform Economy’

The Liberty discussion session for the month of February was held on 26th February 2021 at Gaia Restaurant & Coffee Shop. This session was the second post-COVID discussion held in person. The selected reader for this session was “Reimagining the Platform Economy” authored by Mariana Mazzucato, Rainer Kattel, Tim O’ Riley and Josh Enstminger published by Project Syndicate. 

The general discussion revolved around the use of data by big tech giants involved in the platform economy. The issue was connected with the contemporary topic of regulation done by countries like Australia and the European Union. The decision of the government of Nepal to regulate the data of its citizens was also touched upon where participants of the discussion viewed the decision as a medium to control the freedom of expression rather than the control of revenue. Regarding regulation, there was a general consensus that a lack of tech knowledge is one of the reasons why there was a need for educating people on the topic of social media. Electronic Transaction Act is hazy. However, there are new rules like compulsory registration from companies collecting user data. Few of the participants also viewed the whole platform from the lens of utility where in exchange for data, the “uncompensated data labourers” received utility from the use of the platform, therefore creating a win-win situation. There was also discussion on who should have the power regulate, the state or the private companies themselves. Questions were raised on the state’s capability and intentions to regulate data. And since the technology used by the government is mostly made by foreign private companies, in the end, the integrity of the data was questionable.  

To tackle data illiteracy among citizens, the creation of infrastructures for tracking of usage of data was also suggested in the discussion. There was also a discussion on data ownership and whether data in the form of capital should be traded in the market, where the data owners and companies could buy and sell data. 

At the end of the session, the topic of how the platform economy could be reimagined in Nepal was touched upon. The idea of establishing Unions for collective bargaining and lobbying was suggested. The development of transparent apps to track the movement of data and how our data is being used was also suggested. Similarly, the notion of monetization of data was also floated where the so-called “uncompensated data labourers” would feel compensated.

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