International Scholars Discuss Digital Economy at ZEW


21st Conference on the Economics of Information and Communication Technologies

On 6 and 7 July 2023, the ZEW Research Unit “Digital Economy” hosted the 21st Conference on the “Economics of Information and Communication Technologies”. Held at ZEW Mannheim, the event attracted international scholars who presented and discussed their latest empirical and theoretical research findings in two parallel sessions. The annual conference was organised by Professor Irene Bertschek, Francesco Clavorà Braulin, PhD, and Dr. Dominik Rehse, and has been regarded as one of the most important scientific conferences in the field of digital economy for many years. This is evident from the submission of over 100 scientific papers and the registration of around 85 participants for this year’s edition.

Professor Irene Bertschek, head of ZEW‘s “Digital Economy” Unit, welcomed the conference participants.

Over the course of 14 sessions, a diverse range of topics were explored, including digital technologies, innovations, platforms, privacy, data economy, and social media. Between sessions, scholars had valuable opportunities to exchange ideas about their current research and extend their networks.

Competition and regulation on hybrid marketplaces

Professor Özlem Bedre-Defolie spoke about hybrid marketplaces in her keynote speech.

On the first day of the conference, Özlem Bedre-Defolie, associate professor at the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT), delivered a keynote speech on hybrid marketplaces, focusing on competition and regulation. She highlighted how online retailer Amazon, for instance, sells its own products in certain markets, placing the company in direct competition with other sellers on its own online platform. With its dominant position in these markets, the platform has the ability of promoting its own products, imitating innovations, and limiting product diversity. These issues have long been recognised and are addressed in regulatory frameworks such as the European Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO), which impose extensive regulations on digital marketplaces. Bedre-Defolie suggested that alternative approaches, such as prohibiting specific business practices rather than entire business models, could be considered as less rigid solutions

Two faces of Amazon power

The participants of the 21st "Economics of Information and Communication Technologies" Conference at ZEW

Joel Waldfogel, professor at the University of Minnesota, delivered his keynote speech on the second day of the conference. He discussed the dual nature of Amazon’s market power. According to him, the scary side of Amazon is reflected in its direct competition with other sellers on its online platform, the ability to prioritise its own products, and its high market share in specific product categories. In contrast, the nice side of Amazon is showcased through its role in digitalising markets such as the book industry, its vast range of products, and its provision of information to assist consumers in making purchase decisions. Consequently, reaching a conclusive judgment on Amazon’s positive or negative impact on online commerce proves challenging. Waldfogel emphasised the need for further scientific evidence on topics such as supplier relations, self-promotion, hybrid sellers, and effects on consumers.

After the sessions on the second day, participants engaged in informal discussions, and the conference was suitably concluded with a guided city tour of Mannheim.

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21st ZEW Conference on the Economics of Information and Communication Technologies

06.07.2023 – 07.07.2023 More about the event