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The disruptive potential of digital technologies has become a hot topic in recent years. There are calls for governments to add or remove regulations, invest in digital start ups, and protect the jobs of workers threatened by new ways of doing business. This research paper reviews and interprets expert opinion on disruption in order to inform governments about the policy tasks posed by digital technologies. For the Commission, this review sets a broader framing for the formal inquiries into Data Availability and Use, and Intellectual Property Arrangements. It also provides context for important work that we expect to come to us on productivity growth in a time of apparent digital transformation.

With rapid advances in computing power, connectivity, mobility, and data storage capacity over the last few decades, digital technologies offer opportunities for higher productivity growth and improvements in living standards. But they also pose risks of higher inequality and dislocation of labour and capital. Speculation about the effects of technologies often suffer from extreme optimism or pessimism. In the 1930s, several countries were enthusiastically experimenting with using new rocket technology to deliver mail, and in 1959, the United States trialed mail delivery via cruise missile, a proposition that could now be regarded as comical. The Commission has attempted to avoid the overly excited or dire views of the impacts of current digital technologies, while recognizing their potential where evident.

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