Discover more from European Straits
The OECD’s ‘Going Digital’
European Straits #12
A few months ago, I was invited by Andy Wyckoff, the Director for Science, Technology and Innovation at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), to participate in their 'Going Digital' project. The role of the Expert Advisory Group is to provide strategic guidance, to bring ‘fresh thinking’ as to the new set of institutions that are needed for a more inclusive digital age, and to promote the project beyond the OECD.
The group had its first meeting last Wednesday at the OECD headquarters in Paris. I was honored to join leading experts such as Ann Mettler, who heads the European Commission’s in-house think tank, Diego Piacentini, who last year took a leave of absence from Amazon.com to take charge of the Italian government’s digital transformation, Malavika Jayaram, who is the executive director of the Digital Asia Hub in Hong Kong, and David Weil, who as Barack Obama’s Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division at the US Department of Labor was confronted with the many labor-related issues brought about by software eating the world.
I know the OECD well. Back in 2013, I participated in hearings as a co-author (with Pierre Collin) of a report commissioned by the French government on corporate taxation in the digital economy. I later worked with the Organization’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, headed by Pascal Saint-Amans, as it advanced an ambitious corporate taxation reform project known as ‘Base Erosion and Profit Shifting’ (BEPS). And so I was very glad to be back this year with an opportunity to contribute in fields such as technology, data, policymaking, and institutions.
Over the years of working with them, I came to realize that few people know the OECD’s history. It was initially founded as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) to help administer the Marshall Plan, design more inclusive institutions following World War II, and impose the principle of free trade between Western nations in return for massive American aid. Later on, it turned into an organization designed to provide its member states with expertise and data on policy matters. Its influence has increased in scope as many previously communist countries joined the organization from 1989 onwards. The OECD now also serves as a de facto secretariat for the G20, even though prominent G20 countries such as China, India, and Brazil are not current members.
As for ‘Going Digital’, its aim is to help policymakers navigate and make the most of a digital transition that they still have a hard time understanding. A dominant theme throughout last week’s discussion was that whereas the outcome of technological progress is largely determined by technology itself, there’s still room for volition in imagining new institutions and making the digital economy more sustainable and inclusive. The OECD alone certainly won’t be able to secure such an outcome. But in the more global age of personal computing and networks, an international organization that was once founded to advance the cause of liberalism in the entire capitalist bloc certainly has a key role to play. The Expert Group’s next meeting will take place at the end of October and I will definitely keep you posted on our ongoing work.
In the meantime, imagining new institutions to make the most of the current transition is precisely the topic of my new book ‘HEDGE’, of which I’m completing a chapter about the future of the welfare state. Here’s an overview and related readings: The Next Safety Net.
Finally, I’ve recently published two more notes about business strategy: