by Carlos Risco September 2016 Read in PDF format N12/2016
THE SHARING ECONOMY The digital society is offering services outside the orthodox market, from renting a bicycle to sharing a dinner. A new revolution?

Sharing vehicles, tools, apartments or simply time. And making money. Under the social networks, the digital society seems to be organising itself into a new ecosystem that is putting the previous model into check. Some say that it is time to share rather than possess, that the revolution is unstoppable, that the internet has opened the doors to a new democracy of existing. Others, however, believe that what has emerged is nothing more than a black market that has always existed, dyed in another colour by the hand of the online platforms, and therefore, the challenge is nothing other than its regulation. What is certain is that something is moving on the internet external to those traditionally involved in the economic game, the companies and the administrations. Something has interrupted the game, a disrupting agent, the collaborative economy. Last year, this economic heading generated €15 billion through platforms such as Airbnb, Über and SocialCar leading the pack.

AIRBNB The Californian company that manages the rental of homes between private individuals is in the eye of the hurricane. With more than two million homes listed worldwide, Airbnb has become a global monster competing directly with the professional hotel trade; cities such as Barcelona and New York have tried to contain its expansion and regulate its activity. 

A sharing economy which, according to some indicators could generate up to €335 billion in just 10 years. Experts such as the sociologist and economist Jeremy Rifkin speak of a new “collaborative common” that is developing on a par with the conventional market, transforming the economic life into what he defines as “the Third Industrial Revolution”. From making a little extra by renting a bicycle to a tourist or unexpectedly cashing in on loaning a drill or camera to a stranger, the new digital society creates business where there was once only camaraderie. The most enthusiastic about this model, such as Airbnb (the platform for the rental of properties between private persons, with more than two million listings worldwide) or Über (the app that converts anyone into a taxi driver), maintain that its disruption allows for agreements to be made between private individuals without the meddling of the administration. The administrations seem to say the opposite, severely regulating their presence, and even banning them in some countries. However, in the economy of sharing, more friendly proposals are flourishing. As a result of the crisis, the internet proposed a more human market where anyone could make money by exchanging what they already possessed, such as a bicycle or a plate of food. Jean-Michel Petit, CEO of VizEat, the so-called “Airbnb of food”, assures that the collaborative economy has come to stay in a world where people don’t stop travelling: “The millennials were the first users and as they grow they will continue to use it, therefore, this trend can only grow.” He says that from now on the decisions of the global traveller will multiply: “Will I travel by air or hire a car, stay at a hotel or a rented home, go to a soup kitchen or a fantastic restaurant?”. The idea of collaborative consumption or the P2P economy was brought to light in 2010 by American author Rachel Botsman in her book ‘What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption’, which considers a cultural and economic change: replacing frenetic consumerism with rental or bartering. A romantic and militant idea which, in the face of wanting to earn a little extra, one must first lose the fear of lending one’s possessions to a stranger. The different platforms have guarantees and identification services, and some are linked to Facebook to add the trust of the “virtual face to face”. “The first time is a question of bravery,” says Mar Alarcón, founder of SocialCar. This entrepreneur has created the first online community in Spain for the rental of private cars. After only its first year in operation, they have a fleet of 1,500 cars and around 6,000 registered drivers. According to some, we are regressing to the behaviour of our grandparents, who lent all sorts of things between them, and not consuming. And, even though you don’t have anything to hire out, you’ve got your skills and hard work. In the US, Taskrabbit connects people to carry out different tasks in exchange for money: from putting together IKEA furniture to repairing a plug. Meanwhile, the users of Spinlister rent out bicycles by the hour to whoever needs it, generating a profit where once there was no business. Although for some, it is not the general public who benefit most from this revolution, but rather the startups who take over previously regulated services for their own interests. The disruption is served. 





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