Business and Management Studies: Influencing innovation policy and practice in the digital telecommunications sector

Prof Emanuele Giovannetti

ARU research on the trade-offs between benefits and risks of cooperation between organisations will help to drive innovation, productivity, and connectivity in the digital sector and in the wider economy in the UK and internationally.

Prof Giovannetti and collaborators’ work improving how we measure the market power and success in digital markets, and examining the relationship between intercompany cooperation and innovation, has informed new policies and strategies in the UN, the UK government, and a local authority.

Emanuele Giovannetti holding an iPad while sitting at a small round table

Prof Emanuele Giovannetti

Emanuele is Professor of Economics at ARU. His work focuses on market power on the internet, mobile internet access, ICT platforms, digital divide, crowdfunding, diffusion of mobile social networking, and adoption of new technologies.

Find out more about Prof Emanuele Giovannetti Explore ARU researchers' original work via our open access repository, ARRO

Research summary

Access to the internet and related information and communications technologies (ICTs) is a key component in determining how quickly and comprehensively (if at all) regions and nations can adopt further technologies and innovations, which are vital for achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

Prof Giovannetti’s research focussed on how cooperation between otherwise competing organisations impacts the creation, adoption and spatial distribution of these new technologies, as well as how we can best assess such organisations’ market power and potential success in digital and platform markets.

He found evidence showing that collaboration in innovative activities among non-competing organisations, including customers and suppliers, is an essential element for success.

Conversely, cooperation between competing organisations is usually less successful, as the companies involved might find convenient to stall innovations to reduce competitive pressure.

Prof Giovannetti also found that whether a region adopts new technologies also depends on the strength of local market integration increasing competition between firms, with strong local market competition leading to uneven adoption of new technologies and exacerbating regional technological inequalities.

Prof Giovannetti and collaborators additionally developed new measurements useful for predicting success in digital crowdfunding, determining stability of internet connectivity markets, and identifying market power within digital markets. These include:

  • Different types of network centrality (capturing alternative aspects of how well-connected an organisation is to other companies in digital markets).
  • Digital social capital, gained through and demonstrated by reciprocal support displayed on social networks for crowdfunding projects.
  • Duration of interconnections, leading to higher levels of mutual trust between internet operators in connectivity markets.
Emanuele Giovannetti speaking at the ITU, with a person either side of him on the panel and the backs of three audience members

Summary of the impact

  • Led the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to adopt new practices for collecting and analysing data on 125 countries’ cooperative platforms, and use this data to inform their global ICT policies and governance
  • Informed new ITU policy recommendations detailing how best to bring connectivity to the 50% of the world population that has no internet access
  • Informed recommendations for improving UK productivity, published by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and endorsed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
  • Informed the drafting and adoption of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA)’s Digital Sector Strategy

Left: Emanuele Giovannetti sitting on a panel at the ITU


The ITU, which is tasked to widen and improve access to ICTs for underserved communities worldwide in order to ‘bridge the digital divide’, elected Prof Giovannetti as Vice-rapporteur of one of its study groups.

In this role, Prof Giovannetti introduced new questions to the ITU Annual Tariff Policies Survey. These asked about countries' availability and governance of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) and National Research and Education Networks (NREs) - platforms which aim to improve the affordability of internet access in developing countries by enhancing cooperation among local internet service providers and universities/research centres.

This survey captured new data on these cooperative platforms for 125 countries, in 2019. This has been referenced and used in official ITU reports informing and advising member states on best practice for lowering connectivity costs.

The data has also been made available on the ITU statistics website, ICT-Eye, and used in global and regional forums to discuss global trends in regulation for national and international stakeholders.

In 2016, Prof Giovannetti was invited to join the ITU’s expert academic group and write a chapter, Digital Divide and Digital Multiplier: A Paradigm Shift through Innovation, for an ITU volume. This set out a roadmap to achieve the ICT-related targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and included new policy recommendations for how best to support sustainable ICT innovation ecosystems.

These recommendations have also been published in ITU News Magazine and (in part) a World Economic Forum article. They have informed global public debates on the impact of collaboration in innovation ecosystems and how best to bring connectivity to the, then, 50% of the world population without internet access.

Another outcome of Prof Giovannetti’s research has been captured in a report on the economic impact of over-the-top services (OTTs) - media services offered directly to viewers via the internet - on national telecommunication/ICT markets, which has been published by the ITU in the six official UN languages. It draws together lessons learned from the research to inform the development of regulatory guidelines internationally.

Prof Giovannetti was a Principal Investigator for a UK Department of Business and Skills (BIS) funded project. This examined factors that could enable innovation, particularly targeted subsidies and incentives for R&D and training activities in key sectors, ultimately producing a set of recommendations for improving UK productivity.

The resulting report, published in 2014, filled an important gap in understanding and enabled new capabilities for modelling innovation data and their impact on productivity.

Its policy recommendations were subsequently endorsed by the highly influential OECD UK Productivity Report, and Prof Giovannetti discussed its findings in ten separate one-to-one meetings with key policymakers between 2015 and 2017.

Prof Giovannetti contributed to the writing and adoption of the 2019 Digital Sector Strategy (DSS) by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA). This is key to the CPCA’s Local Industrial Strategy (LIS), which aims to ensure that the area continues to be economically competitive through the success of the digital sector, and adoption and diffusion of smart technologies.

Prof Giovannetti was a member of the Steering Commission for the DSS, as well as the academic lead for the ARU and Cambridge Wireless strategy team that won the bid to write the DSS. His research informed the design of a consultation with, and survey of, multiple organisations and businesses involved in the local digital sector. It also influenced the resulting DSS recommendations.

As a result of the report’s recommendations, the CPCA helps to improve digital connectivity by funding free, secure public access Wi-Fi in market towns and rural village halls across Huntingdonshire.

The CambWifi secure public access Wi-Fi network is provided by Cambridgeshire County Council through the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme, with support from district councils.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We have mapped our REF 2021 impact case studies against the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The 17 SDGs, adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, are an urgent call for action. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

This case study is mapped to SDG 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation, target 9.c.

See also

Read the full REF 2021 impact case study for UoA 17: Influencing innovation policy and practice in the digital telecommunications sector (PDF)

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