Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 22nd 2015 Contents Rather than stay in an expen-
sive hotel chain, how about
booking a room, or an entire
house from a private home
owner. Rather than waiting
on a cab, why not whip out
your smartphone and see which ride-hailing
services are nearby. Or, let s say you want to
start a small-business but don t want to borrow
from a commercial bank to get it started. How
about selling a stake of ownership over the
Internet to help finance the endeavour. It s
sort of like a stock exchange, only for smaller
These aren t theoretical examples. More
people are using the Internet to share their
cars, homes, skills and even their money with
others. Companies such as AirBnb, HomeAway,
Uber, Lyft, Kiva and LendingClub are part of
a growing, multi-billion dollar universe of
business built on the sharing of resources and
allowing customers to access goods when
The term "sharing economy" is one of sev-
eral descriptors being used to describe a broad
range of startups and business models that,
in some way, use digital technologies to match
service and goods providers with customers,
eschewing traditional service delivery models
and bypassing traditional middlemen.
Labels such as "peer economy," "collabo-
rative economy," "on-demand economy," "col-
laborative consumption" are often being used
interchangeably to describe the phenomenon.
Whatever the label, one thing is clear, peer-
to-peer or access-driven businesses is dis-
rupting mature industries by providing con-
sumers with more convenient and cost efficient
access to desired goods and services.
Poised for global growth
A PWC report estimated that in 2014 the
five main sharing economy sectors generated
$15billion in global revenues, making up just
five per cent of total revenue generated by the
ten sectors they looked at. By 2025, the same
five sharing economy sectors are expected to
generate over half of overall sales in the ten
sectors; a potential revenue opportunity worth
For every convenience-seeking bargain
hunter, individuals and firms can now use
technology and the Internet to cash in on this
lucrative global opportunity. In a sharing econ-
omy, people or groups can leverage the unused
capacity of things they already own, or services
they can provide, by offering them to others
for a profit. In this way, physical assets are
shared as services.
Facilitated by more powerful mobile devices
and faster, more reliable mobile Internet con-
nectivity, the trend is giving rise to a powerful,
global network of part-time entrepreneurs.
The sharing economy is allowing them to turn
personal assets into income, and to upend tra-
ditional service economies in the process.
Whether renting homes, hailing cars, bor-
rowing goods, or serving up micro-skills in
exchange for access or money, consumers are
showing a remarkable affinity for the sharing
economy. We live in an age in which mobile
devices are the new personal computer and
Internet access puts information one Web
search away. Consumers are empowered like
never before, and the business models that
respect and acknowledge this reality stand to
benefit the most.
In the sharing economy, firms that empha-
sise convenience and price secure the com-
petitive advantage. The reason is simple.
Today s digitally-empowered consumers are
seeking convenience, flexibility and cost-effec-
tive access to the resources they value, without
the hassle and obligations typically embedded
in traditional business interactions.
The model is changing the structure of a
range of industries. At the same time, the
model places a new premium on a business
understanding of the digitally-minded con-
sumer as driver for success. Consumers simply
want to make---or feel that they have made---
"Share communities have given rise to an
economic revolution that is getting noticed,"
said John Burbank, president, Strategic Ini-
"Connecting online for activities such as,
shopping, managing finances, conducting
research or watching videos has become an
integral part of the daily routines for many.
There is now an established comfort level that
has opened the door for sharing personal prop-
erty via the Internet that may have seemed
unfathomable even a few short years ago."
Fulfilling the potential
Entrepreneurial interest and consumer
appetite are important, but not enough to
build a robust new economic growth sector.
The sharing economy creates new economic
value, but it can also disrupt existing businesses
models. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
The disruption created by the sharing model
can be good news for the wider economy and
for consumers, as greater competition,
increased service options and more efficient
transactions facilitate innovation and economic
In emerging markets, though, leveraging
the full potential of the sharing economy also
depends heavily on the development and sus-
tenance of an enabling environment. Here are
five key barriers to overcome in developing a
local sharing economy.
1. Internet Access.
Mobile-device penetration rates are high,
however, there is still considerable room for
growth in the availability and adoption of
mobile broadband service. The sharing econ-
omy depends on the convenience and com-
puting power afforded by Internet-connected
Developed markets take for granted con-
sumers access to basic elements of a modern
digital economy such as credit cards, electronic
transaction legislation and e-banking. The
peer-to-peer transactions that characterise
the sharing economy must rest upon a robust
and reliable ecommerce foundation.
3. Open Data.
Facilitating the peer-to-peer transactions
that define the sharing economy depend on
technology-enabled services like tracking car
routes, finding rooms and pin pointing busi-
nesses and service locations. These all depend
on accessible, open and up-to-date, govern-
ment data sets. Governments have a key role
to play in making public data sets freely avail-
able to entrepreneurs to create value-added
services based on those datasets.
4. Business Facilitation.
Major regulatory and fiscal issues need to
be resolved to support development of the
sharing economy. Startups need to be facilitated
by reducing red-tape associated with business
initiation. And, of course, capital has to be
available to fund startup enterprises and incu-
bate them in the crucial early-development
5. Intellectual Property Protection.
Mechanisms have to be strengthened to
protect ideas and processes, in addition to
protection for more tangible invention.
Bevil Wooding is an internet strategist with
Packet Clearing House (www.pch.net) an interna-
tional research and capacity building non-profit
organisation. He is also Chief Knowledge Office
at Congress WBN (www.congresswbn.org), respon-
sible for its technology operations and outreach
initiatives. Follow on Twitter: @bevilwooding
OCTOBER 22 • 2015 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
TECHNOLOGY | BG19
THE SHARING ECONOMY
How technology, access disrupt traditional services industries
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