Published on 12 April 2023
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Understanding progress in a changing society

How has digital technology affected two key aspects of daily life, transport and finance? New report by Diane Coyle, Stephanie Diepeveen and Sumedha Deshmukh looks behind the statistics to explore people’s life experiences.

This report explores what fundamental difference digital technologies are and could make to the daily experience of life, and how progress might be measured in the digital economy. It focusses on the domains of transport and FinTech – both of which have experienced significant changes in provision and business models due to the use of data and digital tools, but not everybody has benefitted.

The authors say there needs to be a focus on the benefits of the technology to be widely shared, and for the technologies to enhance people’s opportunities rather than restrict them. This in turn will enable economic and social progress.

They highlight three broad themes that need to be addressed if there is to be broad-based trust in the progress of the digital economy for the common good.

Firstly, a key area is measuring the value created through data generation, access and use. Who can access and use the vast amounts of data being collected, and who benefits from the resulting services? Little attention has so far been paid to missed opportunities and forms of exclusion in measures of progress – to those who are digitally less visible.

A second challenge concerns the need to think in terms of network models, and the resulting wedge between private and social value. The report looks at how external benefits from network effects are captured by private providers and distributed, and suggests to benefit all parties to some extent there should be a key coordinating role for public bodies.

Thirdly, geographic distribution is important when looking to understand the effects of digital services in relation to where people live and the opportunities available to them because of where they are. Technology offers the potential to reduce place-based inequalities but may actually reinforce them if this is not addressed.

The report raises the fundamental concern that progress requires a balance between individual and community interests which has not yet been found; only when this is achieved will digital innovation improve the economy and peoples’ life experiences.


News: What difference are digital technologies making?

Authors

Diane Coyle 2018

Professor Diane Coyle

Bennett Professor of Public Policy and Co-Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy

Professor Coyle co-directs the Institute with Professor Kenny. She is heading research under the progress and productivity themes. Biography Professor Dame Diane Coyle is the Bennett Professor of Public Policy...

Dr Stephanie Diepeveen

Research Associate

Dr Stephanie Diepeveen was a Research Associate with the Bennett Institute. Her work focuses on the social and political implications of an increasingly digital world. She is interested in questions...

Sumedha Deshmukh

PhD student

Sumedha is a PhD student in the Politics and International Studies department at the University of Cambridge. Her research interests include global governance, financial inclusion, and emerging identity systems. She...

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