Technology is creating a new ‘sharing’ or ‘collaborative’ economy. Sites like AirBnB and Uber, and the ever-increasing number of crowdfunding platforms, are changing sector after sector of the economy.
This could be great news for society. But it also brings threats: could the so-called sharing economy drive down wages, replacing steady jobs with insecure gigs? What about consumer protection? And does it matter that so many of the new platforms are American?
The right policies can help maximise the benefits of the collaborative economy for UK society and businesses.
1. Back experimentation. Set up a lab for the sharing economy, providing finance, space for experimentation and the development of useful evidence and research to support the growth of the collaborative economy in the UK.
2. Harness Britain’s design talent. Launch a design prize for the best designs for sharable adaptation of consumer products, from cars to flats to consumer electronics.
3. Set smart standards for sharing. The UK should take the lead in setting standards for interoperability and tracking of sharable goods, building on the British Standards Institutions’ strong global mandate.
4. Tackle regulatory obstacles. Government should convene important sectors of the collaborative economy (transport, space, time, goods, food, etc.) in an industry body or representative structure (or informal sectoral champions) to highlight barriers to policy-makers, the insurance industry and regulators.