In May we held the third Thought Leadership event of our 2017 Programme at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, exploring the impact that digital technology is having on the way we are able to transact and how this is fundamentally altering what we understand as ‘currency’ in an increasingly connected world.

Delivered in conjunction with our partners, RAND Europe, the event was attended by senior leaders from across academia, business, government and non-government sectors, and explored how new models of transaction can help to create new opportunities for social benefit.

There was widespread agreement amongst participants that more traditional, monetary-based forms of currency are here to stay, however we are likely to see the emergence of a ‘mixed economy’ in the future, with data being increasingly viewed as a currency in our connected world. Interestingly, cryptocurrencies were considered as more of an asset management mechanism for storing value, rather than transacting.

However, we also heard how the speed and scale of change may have potential downsides for the economic well-being and stability of our society.  Ensuring equality of access and adequate levels of financial and digital literacy were also seen as key issues that need to be addressed if individuals are to be able to make the most of opportunities presented by the growing number of transaction platforms and mechanisms.

Our discussions highlighted how new platforms are facilitating the more efficient exchange of data during transactions.  This has the potential to impact price setting, enabling greater amounts of data about the products/services and the parties involved in a transaction to be shared during the transaction process.  Such bundling of data has the potential to alter the relationship between the vendor and the customer, enabling price to be set on a more informed basis.  It could support individuals to transact in a more informed manner, increasing confidence and trust, allow organisations to offer more personalised services and recommendations.  However, at the same time this could create unfair practices when such data are used by vendors to adjust price based on prior usage patterns to create unfair commercial advantage.  

Finally, we discussed which groups in society are most likely to benefit from changes, as well as the implications for policy and regulation in terms of economic and financial stability but also in terms of generating greater trust, and the behaviour changes required to encourage adoption of a broader range of transaction mechanisms.

Further details on the debate will be available in the form of Conference proceedings, which are to be published shortly. The Ci 2017 Thought Leadership Programme now moves forward to our final event in June, which will focus on civic society and the opportunities created by digital technology for more effective civic engagement.

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