What is Big Tech?

We contributed the introductory chapter to a new book by CCG on Big Tech and Democracy.

In this CCG essay series on The Future of Democracy in the Shadow of Big and Emerging Tech chapter, we argue that Big Tech is a concept, rather than a fixed set of companies.

As a concept it has four core markers:

1. Data-centric models: The collection, analysis and monetisation of data is central to their business models.

2.Network effects - They have achieved immense scale quickly through network effects. This insulates them from competition, contributes to their

size, and often results in market dominance.

3. Infrastructural role - They also provide essential market and informational infrastructure for a digital economy and society.

4. Civic Power - Through their consumer-facing products and services, that enable essential services like news, commerce and societal interactions, they increasingly play civic functions in society.


Authors

Urvashi Aneja

Urvashi studies the politics, social impacts, and ethics of technology transitions in the global south. She has written extensively on the challenges and risks of AI in India, the emerging gig economy and labor well-being, data governance and gender and technology. She has served on government committees for artificial intelligence and frontier technologies. Urvashi is also an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, a Tech and Social justice champion at the World Economic Forum, and a former member of the T20 Task Force for the Future of Work in the G20. She regularly writes for national media publications and has been quoted in the BBC, Reuters, CNBC, Times of India, and Indian Express, among others. Previously she was a Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and Associate Professor at the Jindal School of International Affairs. Urvashi has a Doctorate from the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Oxford

Angelina Chamuah

Angelina Chamuah is a Research Fellow at Tandem Research. Her current work examines the social and ethical implications of AI and other emerging technologies in India. She has been studying the impact of AI in India across different sectors including agriculture, healthcare, policing, and finance. Key to her research are questions of values and interests that drive socio-technological imaginaries of AI and the future of AI governance in India. In addition to AI, her research interests include the role of Big Tech companies in India, politics of data and human-machine interaction. She holds an M.Phil in Sociology and a Masters in Sociology from the Delhi School of Economics, DU.