How should we understand digital platforms from an institutional perspective?
The paper, “Digital Platforms and Institutional Voids in Developing Countries”, suggests a four-layer model of institutional forms, and illustrates this using ride-hailing platforms as an example.
Layer 1: Digital Institutions. Platforms themselves are institutions into which digitised routines and rules have been designed based on the digital affordances of the platform. Ride-hailing examples include algorithmic decision-making such as driver—customer matching, or price setting.
Layer 2: Digitally-Enabled Institutions. Some institutional functions rely on digitised routines and rules within the platform but involve human intermediation. Ride-hailing examples include checks on driver credentials for market entry, or adjudication of deactivation decisions.
Layer 3: Business Model Institutions. These are broader rules and routines determined by the platform company as part of its business model, which govern participation in the platform but which exist outwith the digital platform. Ride-hailing examples include control over vehicle entry into the market, determination of driver employment status, or setting the balance of supply and demand.
Layer 4: Stakeholder-Relation Institutions. These are the connections or disconnections to other market or domain institutions. Ride-hailing examples include relations to external stakeholders such as government agencies and trade unions.
Analysis of field evidence from Colombia and South Africa suggests that the first two types of institution are associated with the filling of prior institutional voids, and with market improvements. The latter two institutional forms are more related to the maintenance, expansion or creation of institutional voids, and to market inequalities.
We look forward to further work applying and revising this institutional model of platforms.Follow @CDDManchester