Researchers Take Digitalisation, Blockchains and Digital Platforms into Focus


19th ZEW Conference on the Economics of Information and Communication Technologies

On 10 and 11 June 2021, the ZEW Research Department “Digital Economy” organised the 19th Conference on the Economics of Information and Communication Technologies, which covered a broad range of topics in the field of digitalisation. This year, as in 2020, it took place virtually again due to the pandemic. The event has been one of the most important scientific conferences in the field of digital economy for years. This was once again demonstrated by the more than 100 papers submitted and around 300 participants who registered for this year’s edition.

In six sessions, each with three parallel events, national and international researchers presented and discussed their current work on digitalisation topics over two days. The topics of demand management, data protection, social media, digital platforms and algorithmic market mechanisms were particularly well represented. Presentations on the role of digitalisation of the healthcare system and the labour market picked up on current topics from the pandemic year.

After the sessions, the participants had the opportunity to meet online for informal exchange and further discussions; this way, chance encounters and scientific networking also took place in the virtual space.

Keynote speakers discuss digital platforms, blockchain technology and inefficiencies in digital advertising

This year’s keynotes by leading digital economists were once again among the highlights of the conference. Hanna Halaburda, Associate Professor at New York University, spoke about digital platforms and blockchain technology, how both areas interact and how new platforms could be built on blockchain in the future.

On the second day of the conference, Associate Professor Zsolt Katona from the University of California at Berkeley spoke about the inefficiencies in digital marketing that arise when adblockers block advertising on end devices. Katona focused in particular on different pricing models and their effects on consumer surplus.

Conference participants vote for the best papers

The best and most exciting of the papers presented were awarded the Best Paper Award. The participants voted for their favourites on each day of the conference. On the first day, two papers were awarded with an equal number of votes: Manipulation-Proof Machine Learning, presented by Assistant Professor Daniel Björkegren from Brown University, and Healthcare Across Boundaries, presented by Xuelin Li, assistant professor at the University of South Carolina. Björkegren and his co-authors investigated the extent to which decisions made by algorithms can be manipulated by revealing the mechanisms behind them, and how this problem can be solved by novel models. Li and his co-authors address in their paper the increasing importance of telemedicine and in particular the different financial effects this has on urban and rural hospitals. The award on the second day of the conference went to Assistant Professor Pinar Yildirim from the University of Pennsylvania and her paper Social Media, Content Moderation, and Technology. In it, she and her co-authors examine economic incentives for social media platforms to moderate the content shared there, particularly with regard to the different revenue models of the various platforms.

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19th ZEW Conference on the Economics of Information and Communication Technologies

10.06.2021 – 11.06.2021 More about the event