Digital platforms are significantly affecting how firms and individuals undertake economic exchange. With their global expansion, exploring the implications of platforms for those who sell goods or provide services in the global south is an important agenda for determining their value. Yet, we argue that existing frameworks only provide a partial understanding of activities and relations.
In this paper, we examine platforms through an analysis of two theoretical perspectives. Established ecosystems perspectives focus on platform governance, centralizing the activities of the ‘platform owner’. Such perspectives allow an analysis of platform strategy but can underplay the ways platform sellers and service providers engage with platforms. Infrastructure perspectives, in contrast, approach platforms as large and complex systems, which we argue allows for better analysis of the practices and agency of such actors.
An analysis of small tourism service providers in Indonesian and Rwandan tourism supports the discussion of these two perspectives. Findings highlight the growth of global platforms, but service providers face challenges to using them effectively. Infrastructure perspectives highlight risks that service providers face in being pulled into adverse relationships as platforms become ubiquitous. As platforms expand, their complexity leads to challenges in engagement but with potential for learning and collaboration.