The 2018 State of the Field Workshop on the Digital Transformation

Over the last four years, with support from the Carnegie Corporation, Columbia SIPA has embarked on an ambitious initiative to develop new thinking and expertise at the intersection of digital technology, data, public policy and SIPA’s core fields. The Tech & Policy Initiative is engaging leading scholars, CEOs, entrepreneurs, legal and policy experts, and members of civil society to identify and help solve future digital policy challenges in three areas: cybersecurity, internet governance, and the digital economy.

This Workshop builds on three previous annual gatherings, called the SIPA Global Digital Futures Policy Forum . Working with scholars at Columbia University and other experts, this year is set up as an invitation-only “workshop” to invite active participation by all attendees, with lead speakers considering the state of academic and policy research and identifying critical policy issues and questions for the future.

The Workshop considers areas that are well known as important for the future as well as emerging digital public policy issues. Over the course of the day, participants will examine selected policy issues of our digital age – notably digital trade; antitrust, the platform economy; global governance; the internet of things; as well policy issues related to digital currencies; digital identities, security and privacy; and elections and online advertising. The general topics for discussion and confirmed lead speakers are identified below.

Topics for Discussion and Confirmed Speakers

1. Platforms and Governance Issues in the Digital Age - Lead Speakers:

  • Laura Denardis (American University) (moderator)
  • Mark Raymond (University of Oklahoma) (moderator)
  • Martha Finnemore (George Washington University)
  • Tarleton Gillespie (Microsoft Research)
  • Kate Klonick (Yale Law School)
  • Karen Kornbluh (CFR)


What’s changed? The global growth and adoption of services provided by a handful of platform companies have been associated with economic and social benefits. It has also made these platforms de facto stakeholders in global governance challenges formerly managed by states and international institutions. At the same time, the legacy Internet governance regime is being enmeshed in a broader cyber regime complex that is itself still in an increasingly contentious formation process. This contention has been driven by the growing determination of states to reassert their sovereign authority in an issue-area that had previously been characterized by the prevalence of multistakeholder governance modalities dominated by private-sector actors. As "regulating the platforms" becomes an element of the mainstream public debates, this panel will explore how multi-stakeholder institutions can associate all stakeholders while promoting compliance with international law and human rights.


2. Trade in the Digital Age - Lead Speakers:

  • Merit Janow (Columbia SIPA) (moderator)
  • William Drake (University of Zurich)
  • Mark Wu (Harvard Law School) 
  • Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz (International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development) 
  • Usman Ahmed (PayPal)
  • Joshua Meltzer (Brookings Institution)
  • Mira Burri (University of Lucerne)


What’s changed? Platforms increasingly mediate economic opportunities globally and shape international trade flows. The rules of the international trading system barely cover digital trade, although some agreements, such as TPP and KORUS, contain expanded rules around data. Are additional laws or policy frameworks needed? If so, how best to advance such arrangements? What are the sources of tension between nations? How to advance harmonization or convergence?


3. Crypto-economics: The Macro Effects of Digital Private Moneys and Payment Systems - Lead Speakers:

  • Eli Noam (Columbia Business School) (moderator)
  • Max Raskin (NYU)
  • George Selgin (CATO Institute)


What’s changed? Money originated historically from commodities with an inherent value. Today, new electronic technologies like strong encryption make it possible to create secure tokens of value, and global connectivity enables this currency as a means of commerce globally. The digitalization of money creates opportunities, both for populations who did not have access to financial services thus far, but also for connected populations adopting tools such as crypto-currencies and electronic payment systems. Furthermore, alongside government money, private currencies may compete in terms of features, performance, privacy and trustworthiness. In the next decade, we will inevitably see “money” experiencing rapid technological change – and the current monetary system may be tested. Central banks, financial institutions and financial policy regulators need to understand and develop new frameworks for thinking about these changes. This session may usefully consider the magnitude and nature of the changes, possible approaches going forward and important research and analytical questions.


4. Antitrust in the Digital Age - Lead Speakers:

  • Howard Shelanski (Georgetown Law) (moderator)
  • Scott Hemphill (NYU)
  • Gene Kimmelman (Public Knowledge)
  • David Pitofsky (NewsCorp)


What’s changed? The emergence of a handful of global digital platforms, notably in the US and China has brought benefits to consumers, innovation, and inclusion. At the same time, these platforms raise a number of antitrust concerns e.g. price discrimination, barriers to entry and data access, the economics of multisided markets, whether traditional antitrust frameworks readily apply, and if so, how. This panel will explore how network effects, data aggregation, and consumer behavior affect competition and innovation in digital industries, and will examine enforcement approaches.


5. Internet of Things and Governance in the Digital Age - Lead Speakers:

  • Laura Denardis (American University) (moderator)
  • Mark Raymond (University of Oklahoma) (moderator)
  • Ronaldo Lemos (ITS Rio)
  • Veni Markovski (ICANN)
  • Gilad Rosner (Internet of Things Privacy Forum)
  • Stefaan Verhulst (The Gov Lab)


What’s changed? Internet technologies are rapidly proliferating across virtually every domain of organized human activity. The rapid adoption of these technologies creates and exacerbates various governance challenges at both the domestic and global levels. Without adequate governance mechanisms, firms will find it difficult and costly to develop, adopt, deploy and maintain IoT systems that are simultaneously compliant with various national and international laws and regulations (e.g. for privacy, security, lawful access, safety, etc.) in the jurisdictions in which they operate.


6. Digital Identities, Security and Privacy Issues - Lead Speakers:

  • Ronaldo Lemos (ITS Rio) (moderator)
  • Hugo Zylberberg (Columbia SIPA) (moderator)
  • Jeannette Wing (Columbia Data Science Insitute)
  • Helen Nissenbaum (Cornell Tech)
  • Karen Ottoni (Linux Foundation)
  • Vipin Barathan (BNP Paribas)
  • Elizabeth Renieris (Evernym)


What’s changed? Online participation is an increasingly important aspect of human life. Individuals need to be able to prove their identity digitally, as they are in the analog world, in a reliable, secure and privacy-preserving manner. States all over the world are struggling with the challenge of creating the technological underpinning for digital identities, but these necessary technologies come with a new set of issues related to their scope, use, as well as regulation. This panel will explore the policy issues related to such digital identity systems, most prominently privacy, security and technological architecture.


7. New Technologies, Elections and Online Advertising - Lead Speakers:

  • Ann Ravel (Berkeley) (moderator)
  • Augustin Chaintreau (Columbia University)
  • Gordon Goldstein (Silver Lake Partners)
  • Patrick Waelbroeck (Telecom ParisTech)
  • Camille François (Graphika)
  • David Carroll (The New School)
  • Young Mie Kim (Campaign Legal Center)
  • Bret Schafer (Alliance for Securing Democracy)


What’s changed? Participatory processes are an essential building block of modern democracies, and online participation and the digitization of the public debate is transforming how citizens can participate in governance at all levels. Social media have a profound impact on how citizens engaged in the public debate in the electoral process. In particular, political campaigns and organizations are increasingly relying on online advertising, which makes transparency and accountability more difficult with each election. How do we conduct free and fair elections in the age of social media and online advertising?