Singapore and the Sharing Economy
The new economic model is hardly met with an open embrace throughout the globe. Even the United States has its fair share of scholars and market gurus alike trying to discredit its potency. It is too volatile, it disrupts too many sectors, it tries making money from ‘literally nothing’ and so on, relying on the edge technology provides it.
Technological infrastructure is always a biggie when it comes to implementing a sharing economy system. The other important thing is legal and other policymaking considerations, as most of these businesses are operating in a way that skirt technicalities of the law. This results in pending court cases and operational difficulties that could prove problematic, as industry giant Uber is feeling the brunt, and it is not alone.
Obviously, there are proponents of the economy too. Apart from being finely intertwined with technological considerations, the sharing economy has a host of positive side effects: sustainability being the primary one. As many enterprises do not require massive amounts of physical infrastructure, manpower and resources since they merely facilitate services, juggling demand and supply, they are indeed not as guzzling. The continuous recycling and reuse of existing infrastructure points to a healthy system.
All these points are to be kept in mind for entrepreneurs and economists alike as we turn our head to Asia. Altogether too often, Asia skips attention when we discuss things of this nature, as the USA and other western hemispheres occupy our focus – but here, we illustrate just how conducive Asia – and particularly, Singapore is to the flourishing of the sharing economy.
The Sharing Economy Association
The understanding as to ‘why’ the sharing economy association was established in Singapore, as recently as 2014 is pretty simple. Singapore has made several pledges on the international front, especially those regarding sustainable living and reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. It has also promised to become a ‘car-lite’, zero emission city and state by the same year.
In that vein, Eugene Tay, founder of the Sharing Economy Association is optimistic about the impact this will have on Singapore. Taking cues from Seoul and Malaysia, Singapore now ventures to fully assimilate the sharing systems that are necessary for this purpose. Carpooling, resource swapping, space sharing are all within the ambit of this goal – and the Sharing Economy Association plans to go full tilt.
Currently, the association has many formidable members. Big names like Airbnb and Uber have already integrated themselves into the association. Grab is another noteworthy taxi-sharing service, and iCarsClub along with RentCars form the bulk of the transportation segment. Item-lending services like Rent Tycoons and Leendy are also present, as is Carousell – a company specializing in the sale of second-hand items.
Let’s think about the implications of this – economically and otherwise. First, car-pooling and car-sharing systems obviously limit emissions on the road, in addition to saving fuel. If alternative fuels become the norm, the effect will be a hundred-fold.
People also want to simply use items for a specific short-term purpose rather than wanting to own them – and bear the cost of maintenance, upkeep and so on. Reportedly, you’d rather not own a drill or other heavy duty items of a similar nature around the house if you had the option of conveniently borrowing it for an amount of time. The same goes for cars and a variety of other commodities. An economical change also reflects a change in the mind set.
“Our vision is for Singapore to be a Smart Nation — a nation where people live meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled seamlessly by technology, offering exciting opportunities for all.”
- Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
Singapore’s ambition is not misguided. In April 2016, it declared that it ventures to become the world’s first smart city-state, powered by technological advancements. There are two primary reasons as to why things may just succeed in Singapore.
The first is a lack of scaled, muddled bureaucracy. Singapore does not have state, federal and national levels of overlapping governance. Thus, decisions can be somewhat smoother and effective for the sharing economy that treads on the fringes altogether too many times.
The second is Singapore’s commitment to economic and technological growth. As the sharing economy is heavily reliant on the overriding of older models aided with the development of peer-to-peer sharing networks, this is good news. Out of the $73 billion budget, Singapore has allotted $15 billion for economic development and $590 million for info-communications and media.
We have better news. Singapore is notorious for its integrated surveillance system and monitoring capabilities. However, this existing infrastructure only serves to boost connectivity and the smart city vision. Cars, commodities, industries – virtually everything can be put on the grid and can be monitored for sustainability and safety. It also serves to boost peer-to-peer sharing in a seamless manner.
This month, we saw the emergence of GovTech, a new statutory board that emerged from the restructuring of the Infocomm Developmental Authority. They have invested $200 million in a London-based financial accelerator. The country’s tech talent is also being augmented by the Smart Nation Fellowship Programme, whose vision is to “Innovate with data science and technology for the public good.” Every available resource is literally being devoted to single-minded purpose for a grander cause, envisioning a glimpse into the future that is sustainable, green and sharing-based.
So, with Singapore and several other Asian countries taking the helm, the time is right to consider them as potential targets for your on-demand business to thrive. The economic environment is primed for this change, and there is no reason as to why you should not be a part of it – the reasons are both, economic and social.