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Digital economy development

Monza, 12/11/2018, National Roundtable

The participants at this national roundtable noted that digitalization is a paradigm that is not only revolutionizing the economy but the whole of society. This transformation transcends geographical boundaries, is not confined to particular sectors, and has also changed the market and the contractual rules that for decades have governed dealings between different economic actors. Robotics (in substitution of the traditional workforce), new digital currencies, and the disintermediation offered by platforms and algorithms were held up as elements of a transformation that is gaining more and more momentum and risks excluding those who fail to adapt.

In this respect, it was urged that Italy needs to invest in enabling factors, primarily digital infrastructure and appropriate skills. Indeed, the situation in Italy was described as running at two speeds and as marked by an uneven geographical spread. While on one hand big companies are making the most of the benefits of the digital economy, others – especially smaller firms – risk being disadvantaged by a huge divide, which needs to be bridged through fruitful and effective partnership between businesses, academia, and the financial sector. Moreover, successful businesses are scattered higgledy-piggledy across the country, which leads to imbalances and lags in the country’s development, while reducing the ability to mobilize human resources and attract the financial capital necessary to better cope with the new competitive scenario.

It was observed that, for fifty years now, IT systems have continued to alter the organization of production, but that today more than ever this factor is playing a pivotal role in reshaping the structure of the economy. This process is taking place at a speed that is set to increase owing to the growing number of linked-up devices. The first players to grasp the extent of the change and to invest accordingly have got off to a hugely advantageous competitive start. It was suggested that this is even more evident in competition between economies, with the United States and especially China racing ahead in the digital revolution and in investment in technology and training.

The ability to hook into technological innovation was considered crucial for the competitiveness of the country’s economy and firms, as it brings their compelling strengths to the fore, thereby enabling the most to be made of people and skills. In this regard, there was a perceived need for a radical change in Italian business culture, with all contributors to be involved in this transformation. This would serve as the foundation for a new concept of enterprise, which envisions firms as digital platforms and businesses as networks, linked by enabling factors such as those that facilitate their ability to join forces among themselves as well as team up with the research community. This was viewed as a prospect capable of exponentially boosting the production propensities of Italy and of individual localities, provided that they are transformed into open platforms – hubs of expertise capable of slotting into global value chains.