The digital economy is an ever growing integral part of European economies, which transformed the way we work and even the basic concept of employment in many sectors. Cooperatives are flourishing in the digital economy, and they provide solutions to make the digital transition serve workers. Two recent studies by CIRIEC and Legacoop highlight the importance of cooperatives in the digital economy in Europe and Italy. We congratulate our members Confcooperative, Legacoop and CECOP President Giuseppe Guerini for their participation in these studies.

Area Studi Legacoop surveyed their member cooperatives on their activity in the Information- and Communications Technologies (ICT). The result of this exercise is a map of cooperatives whose main business model is based on ICT in Italy, providing robust data on this crucial sector for cooperatives. Legacoop found 200 cooperatives being active in the ICT sector, accounting for a turnover of € 129 million and providing employment for over 2000 workers.

A working paper issued by CIRIEC focused on platform cooperatives, an innovative ownership model for platform workers.  Most established platform-based enterprises offer a matching service between customers and workers, taking the principle of outsourcing to an extreme by outsourcing their main business model. These companies do not assume any responsibility for both the workers and customers, which leads to an erosion of both workers’ rights and the quality of services provided. 

Platform cooperatives offer new solutions for cooperation among workers, producers and consumers. Utilizing digital technologies, these cooperatives successfully provide high-quality services whilst tackling the challenges that arose with the emerge of enterprises such as Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb. 

Discussing examples from Italy, France and Belgium, the study showcases cooperatives that provide shared services and provide better access to social security for freelancers and independent workers, as well as various multi-stakeholder cooperatives that are run in their communities. One such example is the Italian Arvaia Cooperative, which provides a platform for community members, farmers and entrepreneurs to coordinate their needs and production to ensure short supply chains and local production of food.

Platform cooperatives ensure that the digital transition benefits all their members and provides an effective tool for democratically owned and transparent digital innovations. Read more on CECOP’s work on non-standard employment and platform cooperatives here, and CECOP’s policy paper on non-standard and platform workers during the COVID-19 pandemic here.