ZEW Conference Sheds Light on Digital Topics from Various Angles


Anniversary Edition of the ICT Conference Held On-Site in Mannheim Again

About 80 digital economists met at the “Economics of Information and Communication Technologies” Conference at ZEW Mannheim on 7 and 8 July 2022.

What impact will the Digital Markets Act (DMA) recently passed by the EU Parliament have? Where is the economics of privacy going? These and many other questions were discussed by about 80 digital economists at the “Economics of Information and Communication Technologies” Conference at ZEW Mannheim on 7 and 8 July 2022. The conference, organised by ZEW’s “Digital Economy” Department, has been one of the most important scientific conferences in the field of digital economics for years.

After the conference had to take place online for two years due to the pandemic, it was now possible to hold the 20th anniversary of the conference in person again. Over the course of two days, researchers from all over the world presented and discussed their latest research findings in parallel sessions. The spectrum of topics covered by the presentations ranged from competition in digital marketplaces, digitalisation processes in companies and the effects of digitalisation on society to the impact of algorithmic recommendation systems and research on social media. As usual, both theoretical and empirical papers were presented. Between the sessions, the researchers who had come from Germany and abroad took the opportunity to exchange views on their current work, ask critical questions and network. Whether one or the other research idea also emerged from the lively discussions will perhaps be revealed at next year’s conference.

Digital Markets Act is good news for many users

The keynote on the first day of the conference was given by Fiona Scott Morton, professor at the Yale School of Management. She spoke about the expected consequences of the Digital Markets Act on competition between digital platforms and how this could affect the everyday lives of consumers: For example, many users were excited about the prospect of falling prices for services offered online and the possibility of sending messages back and forth between messenger apps – such as WhatsApp or Telegram. At the same time, however, she pointed out that it depended on the implementation and enforcement of the Digital Markets Act whether the regulation would be a success or just a toothless paper tiger.

Privacy more than just hiding of data

Alessandro Acquisti, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, gave the keynote address on the second day of the conference. He first provided an overview of the development of economic research on privacy and then talked about the aspects he thinks researchers should focus on in the future. Traditionally, economists have defined privacy as simply keeping information secret, Acquisti said. In the future, however, it might be useful to broaden the understanding of privacy in research. The deliberately selective sharing of information is also part of private actions, he said. He also called on the researchers present to take more account of the benefits of privacy, which are more difficult to quantify.

Heinz König Young Scholar Award for best research paper in PhD workshop

This year, the conference was complemented by a PhD workshop for doctoral students, which took place the day before. Six selected research papers were presented at the workshop. The best paper was honoured with the Heinz König Young Scholar Award, named after the founding president of ZEW. This year, the research award went to Elisa Gerten from the University of Basel for her work on “Information and Communication Technology, Hierarchy, and Job Design”. The award, sponsored by SAP, was presented jointly by Irene Bertschek, professor at the University of Giessen and head of ZEW’s “Digital Economy” Research Department, and SAP CFO Luka Mucic.

The conference was financially supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

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