The sharing economy of Data
Are you open to the idea of sharing your home or car with a complete stranger?
Enabled by technology, the once-radical notion of the sharing economy has now become a part of daily life, driven by the popularity of services offered by the likes of Uber, Grab and Airbnb.
For its part, Singapore wants to encourage the growth of the sharing economy and its associated technologies, said Mr Liu Feng-Yuan, Director of the Government Technology Agency of Singapore’s (GovTech) Data Science Division.
“From a public good point of view, we’re really keen on encouraging these technologies,” he said. “The sharing economy is about better utilisation, better sharing and better services for the people.”
Mr Liu was sharing at a panel titled Sharing Asia: How Uber and Airbnb Are Evolving, held as part of the Tech in Asia conference in May..
The panel also comprised Mr Chan Park, Southeast Asia general manager of Uber, and Ms Robin Kwok, country manager of Airbnb for Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It was moderated by Tech in Asia’s Japan correspondent Mr Peter Rothenberg.
Rides and regulation
The proliferation of business models based on the sharing economy, and their disruptive potential, has in many countries prompted debate about how they should be regulated.
Regulators in Southeast Asia have, for the most part, embraced Uber’s ride-sharing concept, said Mr Park.
“As a region, I think Southeast Asia has been forward-looking and at the forefront of regulatory reform for ride-sharing,” he said. “The Philippines, for example, was the first country outside the US to regulate ride-sharing.”
But despite this general openness, Mr Park feels that companies and regulators still need to do more to work out the nuts and bolts.
“When it comes to regulation, the devil’s in the details, and that’s where we need a little more dialogue,” he said.
“But so far, it’s been very much an open and positive process, and we have moved from ‘is ride-sharing good or not?’ to ‘how do we make this happen?’”
Ultimate sharing economy
Regulation exists to protect the public good and the public interest, said Mr Liu, and is an essential part of the conversation around the growth of the sharing economy.
Public transport, he added, is one area that could be greatly improved through the use of technologies that encourage and enable sharing.
“The ultimate sharing economy is public transport,” he said.
“You’re not just putting one or two people in a vehicle with a driver, you’re trying to get ten to twenty people. The challenge there is much greater, but we can use mobile technology to crowdsource and kick-start better commuting solutions.”
The government has already started to do this. In March 2017, GovTech and ride-hailing company Grab launched GrabShuttle, which allows commuters to book rides on express private bus routes. The service is powered by Beeline, GovTech’s open smart mobility platform.
But even the best public transport system in the world would not be able to reach every street corner, said Mr Park.
This is where ride-sharing services can help complement the existing infrastructure, he added. “They can provide a multi-modal experience that is pleasant and convenient for people. It makes economic sense.”
Keeping data open to all
Mr Liu also thinks that it is essential for data collected by government agencies to be made available to the public, so that people can use it to do research, build apps and solve problems.
“GovTech did work on the Circle Line recently, where our data scientists helped to investigate the cause of a broken train. We wrote up the analysis and the code and put it on our open data blog, and we got a huge response,” he said.
“I think people appreciated the fact that we stepped through the analysis and were transparent about it.”
Agreeing, Ms Kwok said that companies rely heavily on data to make strategic decisions and solve problems.
Likewise, Mr Park said that an open exchange of data would indeed provide many opportunities for collaboration.
“We recently launched a tool called Uber Movement, which can provide data to city planners and governments so that they can better plan their infrastructure,” he added