Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Fostering the Sharing Economy in Australia

Andrew Leigh, the ALP Federal Shadow Minister for Competition, has invited comment on "Sharing the future: Getting policy right in the Age of the App" (Federal Opposition Discussion Paper, 24 March 2015). This gives an overview of the "Sharing Economy", where an on-line service can be used to allow individuals to make use of each others goods and services (for free, in return for the opportunity to borrow others for for a fee). Borrowing something from a neighbor, or renting out a room for a night, is hardly a new idea, but web based services make it possible on a global scale. The ALP paper covers the issues of: Employment and workers’ rights, Public safety and consumer protections, Accessibility, Equity, Taxation, Competition and Federal/state coordination. What is not covered is policy for encouraging Australian sharing economy ventures.

Unfortunately the pro-Australian message of the ALP's paper is somewhat weakened by it being distributed via a non-Australian web service and including only examples of non-Australian companies. The message from this might be that the Sharing Economy will consist of Australian money and jobs being funneled out of Australia to foreign multinational companies located in tax havens. It would be a good idea for the ALP to put the paper on a web server located in Australia and, even better, convert it from PDF into a more readable web page (in accordance with accessibility guidelines).

It should not be too difficult to find some Australian examples of the the Sharing Economy. I regularly attend and judge startup competitions and there are always examples of sharing economy ventures. One place to look would be the Canberra Innovation Network and GriffinAccelerator. Another place is the Telstra Muru-D Start-up Accelerator in Sydney.

Also, it would be worth having something in the policy about encouraging the creation of new sharing economy ventures. There is scope for Australia to provide products and services (including education) to support the sharing economy worldwide. There would likely be markets in China, India and Indonesia for this.

There could also be a role for government in the Sharing Economy. The Australian Digital Transformation Office (DTO) is to look at innovative ways to deliver government services. One way would be for the government to help facilitate Australians to help each other.

No comments: