Economic implications of the digital economy

Joint conference hosted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Reserve Bank of Australia

Joint conference hosted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Reserve Bank of Australia

Event overview

9-10 March 2022
H.C. Coombs Centre
122A Kirribilli Avenue, Kirribilli NSW 2061

This conference is designed to provide a better understanding of the policy implications arising from digital technology-enabled disruption and explore the links to economic measurement and the information needs of policy makers.

Digital disruption leads to existing business models being supplanted by new models that bring more efficiency to the sale or distribution of products. Consumers are increasingly able to use technology to shop for products at lower prices with greater convenience - which has the impact of reducing the pricing power of businesses. This reduced pricing power, in turn, causes businesses to further intensify their focus on creating greater operational efficiencies.

It is likely that this disruption is becoming a greater factor in the economic outcomes of workers. Increasingly, workers with lower levels of educational attainment are seeing their jobs restructured or eliminated. Unless they have sufficient math and literacy skills, or are retrained, these workers will see their productivity and incomes decline as a result of disruption.

Further digital technology provides opportunities for how government interacts with citizens in the delivery of services such as education and health. It also provides the potential for new approaches to policy setting which are more targeted and evidence based than previously due to the availability of more timely and granular data.

The rise of the digital economy has also seen the rise of firms that do not explicitly charge their customers for the products they offer but instead use the data their customers (passively) provide to generate value. This creates questions for the measurement of their economic output. Further, the network benefits that accrue to firms that are dominant suppliers generates an oligopolistic structure for the industry, which has public-policy implications.


Professor Marian Baird

Marian Baird AO is Professor of Gender and Employment Relations, and the first female professor in industrial relations at the University of Sydney. She is a Presiding Pro-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Head of the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies and Co-Director of the Women, Work and Leadership Research Group in the University of Sydney Business School. Marian’s disciplinary background is industrial relations and her research focus is gender and employment, in particular how regulation and social norms interact to produce different labour market outcomes for women and men.

Dr Tom Barratt

Dr Tom Barratt is a Lecturer at the Centre for Work + Wellbeing at Edith Cowan University. As a labour geographer, his work spans the domains of economic geography and labour studies, focusing on how the experience of work is locally contingent. Empirically his work has encompassed both extraction in resource peripheries, and food-delivery and rideshare work in the ‘gig’ economy. 

Dr James Bishop

James works in the Economic Research Department in a team that uses microdata to answer macroeconomic policy questions. His research interests focus on policy evaluation and the labour market, with a recent focus on understanding the drivers of wages growth. James holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Sydney and also has a Masters in Economics from the London School of Economics. 

Professor Jeff Borland

Jeff Borland is Truby Williams Professor of Economics at the University of Melbourne. His main research interests are analysis of the operation of labour markets in Australia, program and policy evaluation and design, Australian economic history and sports economics. Jeff is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. In he 2020 received the annual Distinguished Fellow Award from the Economic Society of Australia.

His main current fields of teaching are microeconomics, economic analysis of public policy and economic history. He has authored the textbook Microeconomics: Case Studies and Applications, now in its 4th edition. At University of Melbourne Jeff has been a recipient of the Ed Brown University Teaching Prize and the Ross Williams Award for Career Achievement in Teaching in the Faculty of Business and Economics.

Professor Robert Breunig

Robert Breunig is the director of the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute at the Crawford School of Public Policy. From 2015 to 2016 he was the Director of the Crawford School of Public Policy.

Professor Breunig is one of Australia’s leading Public Policy Economists. He has published in over 50 international academic journals in economics and public policy. Professor Breunig has made significant policy impact through a number of his research projects: the relationship between child care and women’s labour supply; the effect of immigration to Australia on the labour market prospects of Australians; the effect of switching to cash from food stamps in the U.S. food stamp program and the inter-generational transmition of disadvantage.

Professor Breunig’s research is motivated by important social policy issues and debates. His work is characterized by careful empirical study and appropriate use of statistical technique.

Professor Breunig’s research agenda has led to many partnerships with government organizations in Australia and overseas. He works regularly with the Australian Treasury, the Department of Employment, the Department of Industry, the Department of Communication and the Arts, the Productivity Commission, the Australian Bureau of Statistics as well as many other agencies. He has been a consultant to the private sector on marketing, mergers, bank competition and customer loyalty programs.

Dr Andrew Charlton

Andrew Charlton is a Managing Director at Accenture. He has senior experience in business, government and international institutions. After commencing his career with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), he received a Doctorate and Masters in Economics from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. From 2008-2010, through the period of the global financial crisis, he served as senior economic advisor to the Prime Minister of Australia and Australia’s senior government official to the G20 economic summits. He was the prime minister’s representative to conferences of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF). Andrew’s academic research covering international economics, trade and development has been published in leading international journals including the American Economic Review, World Trade Review and World Economy. He is the author of two books, Ozonomics (2007) and Fair Trade for All (2005), co-written with Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz. 

Associate Professor Michael Coelli

Mick joined the Department of Economics in October 2005 after completing his PhD in Economics at the University of British Columbia. He completed a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics Honours) degree at the University of New South Wales in 1990, and obtained a Master of Arts (Economics) degree from the University of British Columbia in 2000. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in May 2010 and to Associate Professor in January 2020. Mick's work focuses on empirical research in both labour economics and the economics of education. He has analyzed the relationship between individual education levels and employment earnings in Australia, the polarisation of occupations in Australia, earnings inequality and the effects of technology and trade on local labour markets. He has investigated the role of family background in determining the post-secondary education attendance of individuals, the effect of school principals on the education outcomes of youth, and the effect of high school graduation on the welfare recipiency of young adults. Mick has also investigated the role of occupation differences on the gender earnings gap in Australia and the US, plus the drivers of occupation differences by gender.

Mark Cully

Mark Cully heads up the Macroeconomic Analysis and Policy Division in the Treasury. He has had a varied career in applied economic policy research at the intersection of government and academia, including more than a decade as Chief Economist at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and then the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. He has chaired the Adelaide Festival of Ideas Advisory Panel and the OECD’s Working Party on Migration, and was a member of the CEDA Council on Economic Policy from 2014 to 2020. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution in 2018. He is the current Australian delegate to the OECD’s Economic Policy Committee.

Dr Catherine de Fontenay

After completing her PhD at Stanford University, Catherine de Fontenay was a faculty member at UNSW and then at the University of Melbourne. She has held visiting positions at ANU, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and the Stern School of Business (NYU). Her research has been published in the American Economic Review, the RAND Journal of Economics, and the Journal of Industrial Economics. Catherine commenced as a Commissioner with the Productivity Commission in 2019. She has contributed to reports on service sector productivity, small business access to credit, supply chain vulnerability, wealth transfers, labour markets for young people, and child and family services in the Northern Territory.

Dr Guy Debelle

Dr Guy Debelle commenced as Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia on 18 September 2016. He is Deputy Chair of the Reserve Bank Board and Chair of the Council of Financial Regulators' Climate Change Working Group. Prior to his current role, Dr Debelle was the Assistant Governor (Financial Markets).

In May 2019, Dr Debelle was appointed Chair of the Global Foreign Exchange Committee (GFXC). Prior to this, he was Chair of the BIS Foreign Exchange Working Group responsible for the development of the Global Code of Conduct for the Foreign Exchange Market as well as Chair of the Australian Foreign Exchange Committee.

Dr Debelle worked at the International Monetary Fund, Bank for International Settlements, Australian Treasury and as a visiting professor in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He graduated from the University of Adelaide with an honours degree in economics and gained his PhD in economics at MIT under Stanley Fischer and Rudi Dornbusch.

Dr Debelle is a signatory to The Banking and Finance Oath.

Professor Kevin Fox

Kevin Fox is a Professor of Economics and Director of Centre for Applied Economic Research at the UNSW Business School. He works primarily in the field of economic measurement, with a focus on productivity and prices. His research on the use of scanner data in price indices has changed CPI construction in multiple countries. He is President of the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and member of the NBER-affiliated US Conference on Research in Income and Wealth. He chaired the 16th Series CPI Review Advisory Group in 2009-2010, is a member of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Methodology Advisory Committee, and has been a consultant for agencies such as the Australian Treasury, UK Office for National Statistics, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the Swiss National Bank, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, the Asian Development Bank, and the New Zealand Treasury. He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Productivity Analysis and an Editorial Board member of the Review of Income and Wealth.  

Dr Caleb Goods

Caleb Goods is a Senior Lecturer of Management and Employment Relations in the University of Western Australia Business School. He is a fellow of the UWA Public Policy Institute and Co-Investigator on the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change project, based at York University, Toronto. Caleb’s research focuses on work and workers lived experiences in the ‘gig’ economy and understanding how climate mitigation and adaptation is reshaping work and with-it contemporary society. 

Elayne Grace

Elayne Grace is the Chief Executive of the Actuaries Institute, the professional body representing actuaries in Australia. The Institute oversees education qualification and lifetime learning for the profession, sets professional standards and is a key contributor to public policy across the broad range of sectors in which actuaries have expertise. Elayne’s drive has resulted in key research into aged care, big data, climate change, governance, longevity risk and retirement, mental health, and intergenerational equity. Elayne has 25 years’ international experience with leading consulting firms and major insurers, including as a leader of some of the earliest collaborations between business, scientists and NGOs on climate change and risk. She has provided strategic, economic and financial advice on mergers and acquisitions, valuations, product development, strategy development, international governance and emerging risks. She has been an adviser on a Commonwealth Treasury expert panel and to the Indigenous Land Corporation Board on the long-term sustainability of its investments. She has been recognised in The Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence (2019) awards and Voice Project Best Workplace (2021) awards for exceptional levels of employee engagement and satisfaction. Elayne is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries and of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (UK). 

Dr David Gruen

Dr David Gruen was appointed Australian Statistician on 11 December 2019. As Agency Head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, he is accountable for the functions and operations of the Bureau. David was previously the Deputy Secretary, Economic and Australia’s G20 Sherpa at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Before joining the Department in September 2014, he was Executive Director of the Macroeconomic Group at the Australian Treasury. David joined the Treasury in January 2003, before which he was the Head of the Economic Research Department at the Reserve Bank of Australia from 1998 to 2002. Before joining the Reserve Bank, David worked as a research scientist in the Research School of Physical Sciences at the Australian National University. With financial support from a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship, David was visiting lecturer in the Economics Department and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University from August 1991 to June 1993. He holds PhD degrees in physiology from Cambridge University, England and in economics from the Australian National University. David was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (General Division) in 2022 for distinguished service to public administration, to economic research, to business, and to education.

Angela Hope

Angela Hope is the Assistant Secretary for the Skills Intelligence and Engagement Analysis Branch, in the National Sills Commission. 

Angela started this role at the beginning of the COVID19 Pandemic. In response, the Branch developed the Jobs in Demand App on Jobs Hub and won Qlik's Health and Public Sector Digital Transformation Award. The Branch recently launched the Australian Skills Classification, as new common language for skills, and the Nowcast of Employment by Occupation and Region (NERO) experimental dataset.  

Angela holds a Masters in Public Policy and a Degree in Business and Commerce and has a diverse background of delivering digital projects, leading social policy reform agendas and working with local communities. 

Dr Ralph Lattimore

Ralph is the Executive Manager of the Canberra office of the Productivity Commission. His work has covered diverse areas of economic and social policy, among them Australia’s gambling industries, competition policy, paid parental leave, workplace relations, disability insurance, migration policy, the Australian healthcare system, the 5 year productivity review and retirement income policy. Most recently, he has worked on the National Agreement on Skills, a report on case studies of innovation in chronic disease management, and the Commission’s study into public transport pricing.

Ralph has a Bachelor of Arts degree and Masters degree in economics from the Australian National University, and a doctorate from Oxford University.

Dr John Simon

John is Head of the Economic Research Department. During his career at the RBA he has worked in Economic Analysis, Economic Research and Payments Policy Departments. John also spent three years at the International Monetary Fund where he was the lead author of a number of influential chapters in its flagship publication, the World Economic Outlook. He has a PhD from MIT, which made a seminal contribution to the identification and analysis of the Great Moderation. 

Michael Smedes

Michael Smedes is currently acting General Manager of Social Statistics Division at the ABS. He has an extensive background in official statistics having worked at the ABS, Statistics New Zealand, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations. Michael's substantive role is head of the National Accounts Program, prior to this he was most recently the global advisor on national accounts at the United Nations.

Dr Alex Veen

Dr Alex Veen is Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School. He is an employment relations scholar with an interest in the future of work, understanding how technology is shaping and resulting in new forms of work organisation. He received a prestigious Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award for his research on the nature and operation of algorithmic management in the ‘gig’ economy, advancing understanding about the impact of de-humanised management for workers and other stakeholders. Alex’s other research focuses on management’s industrial agreement-making strategies and tactics under the Fair Work Act, exploring for instance the recent trend in enterprise agreement terminations. 

Jacqui Vitas

Jacqui Vitas is the General Manager of Macroeconomic Statistics Division. Prior to joining the ABS in February 2016 Jacqui worked in the UK Office for National Statistics, on the 2001 Census, in the Methodology Division and in National Accounts. She has extensive experience of business survey methodology and is co-author of the Wiley book 'Designing and Conducting Business Surveys'. She joined the ABS as Program Manager of the Labour and Income branch and took up the General Manager position in June 2017. Jacqui has a BA (Hons) in Social Policy Administration and an MSc in Social Research.

Professor Elizabeth (Beth) Webster

Professor Beth Webster is Director of the Centre for Transformative Innovation at Swinburne University of Technology. She is also Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research Impact and Policy. Her expertise centres on the economics of the way knowledge is created and diffused through the economy. She has a PhD in economics from the University of Cambridge and an M.Ec and B.Ec (hons) from Monash University. She is a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences Australia. Professor Webster is responsible for providing advice and leadership on policies relating to the economic and social impact of research, public industry and innovation policies. She is also responsible for measuring university research engagement and impact. Professor Webster has authored over 100 articles on the economics of innovation and firm performance and has been published in RAND Journal of Economics, Review of Economics and Statistics, Oxford Economic Papers, Journal of Law & Economics, the Journal of International Economics and Research Policy. She has been appointed to a number of committees including the Bracks' review of the automotive industry, Lomax-Smith Base funding Review, CEDA Advisory Council, and the Advisory Council for Intellectual Property. She is a past President of the European Policy for Intellectual Property Association and is the current General Secretary of the Asia Pacific Innovation Network. 

Elise Whalan

Elise Whalan has over 10 years experience as an economist for the Australian Government, working on a range of public policy and market design projects. Elise has worked on data and digital policy at Treasury, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Productivity Commission, where she played a key role on the Data Availability and Use inquiry. At present, Elise is an Assistant Director in the Data Strategy and Governance Unit at Treasury and holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics) (Hons I) and Bachelor of Laws (Hons I) from Griffith University. 

Danielle Wood

Danielle Wood is the CEO of Grattan Institute and also leads Grattan’s Budgets and Government Program. She has published extensively on economic reform priorities, budgets, tax reform, generational inequality, and reforming political institutions. Danielle previously worked at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, NERA Economic Consulting, and the Productivity Commission. She holds an Honours degree in Economics from the University of Adelaide and two Masters degrees, one in Economics and one in Competition Law, from the University of Melbourne. Danielle is the President of the Economic Society of Australia and was the co-founder and first Chair of the Women in Economics Network. She is a member of the Parliamentary Budget Office Expert Advisory Committee, the Commonwealth Bank CEO Advisory Council, and the PWC Future of Work Committee.

Conference agenda

Day 1 – Wednesday 9 March 2022
TimeAgenda itemSpeakers
7:30amCoffee, tea and breakfast 
9:30amWelcome to Country 
9:40amOpening remarksDr David Gruen, Australian Bureau of Statistics
10:00amSession 1 – Digital implications for business operations and production: tax policy, international trade, production functions, capital investment, fintech
 Impact of digital innovation on new products, processes, and competitionProfessor Elizabeth (Beth) Webster, Swinburne University of Technology
Digital services taxesProfessor Robert Breunig, The Australian National University
Valuing data as an asset, implications for economic measurementMichael Smedes, Australian Bureau of Statistics
Head in the Cloud: Firm performance and cloud computingDr Catherine de Fontenay, Productivity Commission
Dr Ralph Lattimore, Productivity Commission
DiscussantMark Cully, Treasury
ChairDr John Simon, Reserve Bank of Australia
2:30pmSession 2 – Digital implications for the labour market: skills, education, wages, displaced workers, intermediaries
 The Australian labour market and the digital economyProfessor Jeff Borland, University of Melbourne
Associate Professor Michael Coelli, University of Melbourne
Navigating new forms of work and Australia's social security system: the experiences of Australian ride-share driversProfessor Marian Baird, University of Sydney
Dr Tom Barratt, Edith Cowan University
Dr Caleb Goods, University of Western Australia
Dr Alex Veen, University of Sydney
Digital skills in the Australian and international economiesAngela Hope, National Skills Commission
DiscussantDr James Bishop, Reserve Bank of Australia
ChairMichael Smedes, Australian Bureau of Statistics
4:30pmClose session 2 
6:00pmConference dinner 

Panel discussion

Dr David Gruen, Australian Bureau of Statistics
Dr Guy Debelle, Reserve Bank of Australia
Danielle Wood, Grattan Institute

Panel Moderator:
Dr Andrew Charlton, Accenture
8:30pmClose day 1 
Day 2 – Thursday 10 March 2022
TimeAgenda itemSpeakers
7:30amCoffee, tea and breakfast 
9:00amSession 3 – Digital implications for consumers: competition, utility, pricing power & inflation, households as producers, data sovereignty
 Big data and the digital economy: Benefits and pitfalls in the insurance industryElayne Grace, Actuaries Institute
The digital economy, welfare and productivity growthProfessor Kevin Fox, University of New South Wales
Looking under the lamppost or shining a new light: new data for unseen challengesMark Cully, Treasury
Elise Whalan, Treasury
DiscussantDanielle Wood, Grattan Institute
ChairJacqui Vitas, Australian Bureau of Statistics
12:30pmClosing remarks/wrap up/summary/key takeawaysDr John Simon, Reserve Bank of Australia
12:45pmLunch and depart 

Papers - Session 1

Papers - Session 2

Papers - Session 3

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