Global Governance
Russia and the Competition of Technological Platforms: the Political Economy of the ICT Market
Russia and the Competition of Technological Platforms_the Political Economy of the ICT Market
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There is no accepted definition for the term “technological platform,” because it has been applied to information and communication technologies (ICT) only recently. The experts, politicians and business people who discuss technological platforms understand what one another mean, by and large.

But scientific discussions are impossible without a clear definition. In our opinion, the clearest and least controversial definition is the following: a technological platform is the sum total of technological means used to create devices, processes and technologies.

Then the topic is highly specialised, the discussion is focused on issues of professional interest for software experts, such as the meaning of “platform,” what kind of technology is implied, and whether it concerns global/universal phenomena or those endemic to national segments.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of giant IT platforms, such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter. In 2020, their power, measured in terms of the number of users, the price of their shares and brands, as well as their ability to influence global and national political processes, peaked. There is consensus that the Big Tech companies have become a threat to democracy even in the most developed countries, but there is yet no consensus on how to respond to this threat.

This survey of technological platforms, and the political and economic effects of their development, is based on the above definition. It implies a specialised approach to technological platforms, depending on the specific features of this forward-looking sector of research, which directly influence the political and socioeconomic aspects of the life of every individual.

Many people see ICT as ephemeral elements used to develop a virtual world through the integration of processes underway in real life. It takes a great deal to ensure that a computer network serves the interests of the state and private business, households and individuals. For example, it is necessary to create a system of specialised universities and scientific schools; to train top-notch software experts; create programming languages and controller software; lay undersea and ground internet cables; launch communication satellites; and coordinate various technical standards. Only sovereign states and their governance systems are able to create the necessary conditions for this today and even in the remote future. The resources of private business are comparable to those of states, but only governments and parliaments have the legal right to regulate the ICT sphere and the authority to control the use of modern technology even despite their owners’ resistance. It is impossible to create a common global ICT network without political will clearly expressed by the main international actors. We must also consider the top-down structure of the community of sovereign states. Until recently, some countries did not have the right to veto global projects, such as the development of the ICT industry on the basis of common standards and the internet combining all the national segments. The attempts to block access to the internet (North Korea and Turkmenistan) or to create hightech firewalls (China) were laughed down. But these ideas, which looked technologically unviable and economically irrational only recently, gained momentum at the turn of the 2020s. Things that looked impossible are becoming a reality and even the norm.