Digital Platforms: A New Paradigm for Digital Interaction, Service Delivery, and Value creation.

19 October 2023 Chris McLaren Avatar

The term "platform" gets tossed around quite a bit in tech – often loosely and without a solid grasp of what a digital platform is, how they create value and how they differ from "digital products".

At its core, a #digitalplatform is a multi-sided ecosystem that connects users, services, and resources, amplifying value exponentially. It's not just a marketplace but a value-creation entity. Digital platforms operate on the principle of aggregating supply and demand at near-zero marginal costs, serving as the linchpins that hold together various digital elements—from services and applications to users and providers.

While a digital product like a mobile app offers a specific service, a digital platform provides the infrastructure to host multiple services. It multiplies opportunities for value creation. For instance, a weather app on your phone is a digital product; it provides you with weather forecasts. In contrast, the Apple App Store is a digital platform that enables a multitude of such products to exist and thrive – connecting App creators and App consumers or users.

Examples of digital platforms are all around us. YouTube connects content creators with viewers and advertisers. Uber connects drivers with riders. Airbnb connects homeowners with travellers. Paypal allows individuals and businesses to make and receive payments both domestically and internationally. Each participant adds value to the other, creating a symbiotic relationship that benefits all parties involved.

Metcalf's Law states that the value of any network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users. This law is particularly relevant to digital platforms. The more users a digital platform has, the more valuable it becomes. It's a self-perpetuating cycle: more users attract more service providers, which in turn attract even more users, thereby increasing the platform's value exponentially.

For businesses, platforms serve as a strategic lever to outpace competition by deepening customer engagement through personalised experiences and engendering trust through transparent, two-way reputation systems. In essence, platforms enable businesses to not just offer products or services, but to create rich ecosystems where value is co-created and shared among all participants.

For governments, platforms pave the way for aggregating (centralising) services, thereby offering more efficient, connected, personalised and trusted citizen experiences. Digital platforms offer a new paradigm for how we think about digital interaction, service delivery, and value creation.

As we navigate the #digitaleconomy the focus is clearly shifting from individual digital products to more expansive digital platforms. These platforms are the meeting place where supply meets demand, where innovation meets opportunity, where need meets service and where problems meet solutions.

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