President, Confrontations Europe
Digital technology and online platforms are profoundly changing our economies and our societies. The conference being organised jointly by Confrontations Europe, Coop des Communs, the P2P Foundation, Smart, CECOP-CICOPA Europe and Ouishare (with the backing of the EESC) aims to create a better understanding of these changes and of what a European regulatory framework might look like. The first fact that we verify is that technological determinism does not exist. Digital technology, and online platforms in particular, are a source of tremendous opportunity. Their purpose and the way they function provide a foundation for new forms of solidarity and emancipation. Digital technology fosters a certain degree of horizontality where verticality once prevailed. However, platforms can also create new forms of insecurity and operate in a predatory manner. The adjectives used to describe them, such as “participatory” and “collaborative”, can prove misleading. Platforms are bringing long-standing issues to the fore: the relationship between the various actors in the chain of production of a product or service, their role in the creation of value, and the way that value is distributed. Establishing the role of the different stakeholders and incorporating social and societal factors into corporate strategy and governance are vital to changing our development models. This applies to the whole of the economy, regardless of the purpose or status of the company in question. Cooperatives, mutual societies, the associative sector etc. have long encouraged the participation of workers and beneficiaries, and have governance structures that ensure consistency between their activities and their values. Their experience and their outlook on today’s new and changing world are invaluable in defining European regulations and in navigating the difficult task of striking a balance between fostering innovation and entrepreneurship on the one hand, and protecting the ‘common good’ and social justice on the other.