Embracing the 'We Economy'
By Catherine Garner, Health & Public Safety, Accenture ANZ
Wednesday, 08 February, 2017
It’s time for public service leaders to recognise that having access to an asset or service does not require owning it.
Traditional models of ownership have been seriously disrupted by new technologies and are becoming less desirable. Digital technologies are empowering individuals and organisations to take a modern approach to an old-fashioned idea — sharing.
As an indicator of the uptake of sharing platforms, more than one million Australians have downloaded car-sharing app Uber. What’s more, in Australia, the number of citizens using sharing platforms to earn extra income has more than doubled in less than two years.
Beyond the private sphere, new research from Accenture confirms that citizens support the use of sharing platforms in the public sector. The government’s use of such models points to opportunities to enhance citizen perceptions, engagement and satisfaction. This is otherwise known as the shift from the ‘Me Economy’ to the ‘We Economy’.
Citizens are supportive of governments engaging with the sharing economy across a range of assets — particularly those that are expensive and underutilised, such as heavy equipment. The Accenture survey also revealed that some public service leaders recognise the value in sharing as a means to enable government innovation, strengthen citizen engagement and improve outcomes.
Embracing new models based on the We Economy can help to drive government innovation, trim costs, reduce waste and enhance risk management.
Driven by digital and mobile technologies and public support, the We Economy creates a host of opportunities to transform the way the public sector manages the infrastructure it has already acquired. Forward-thinking governments are taking advantage of this, tapping into these technologies to reduce the costs and risks associated with the assets they own.
For example, LiquidSpace — dubbed the Airbnb of the commercial property space — lists offerings in more than 500 cities across the United States, Australia and Canada. Providing a platform for renting workspaces and meeting rooms by the day or hour, LiquidSpace enables shared-use platforms to easily connect those who need a particular asset or service with those who have excess capacity, with clear advantages for cost efficiency.
Similarly, third-party car-sharing platforms can dramatically reduce the size and improve the utilisation of government fleets or maintain a common pool of vehicles for rent across agencies or municipalities. In communities with robust public transportation, third-party car-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber could enable governments to completely exit the ‘business’ of fleet management — cutting capital and operating expenses, minimising risks and ultimately impacting the environment.
Digital is also powering other new avenues, such as crowdsourcing, for collecting, sharing and using data to drive innovation and tackle some of society’s complex problems. The Australian Government’s Public Data Policy Statement, published at the end of last year, acknowledges the importance of government data for growing the economy, improving service delivery and transforming policy outcomes for the nation.
In line with this, the government has committed to releasing more non-sensitive data, providing free access to public data and overcoming barriers to improve service delivery and policy analysis.
As innovative businesses, platforms and apps continue to fuel the We Economy, there are significant opportunities for the public sector to embrace digitally enabled collaborative consumption. In order to meet these challenges in the digital world, the public sector should consider the following recommendations:
- Start by tapping into existing platforms, such as Uber and Lyft for first- and last-mile transport, Airbnb for emergency shelter following natural disasters or MuniRent to share heavy equipment.
- Keep the right mindset. When contemplating the purchase of almost any asset, public service leaders should consider alternatives such as borrowing or renting.
- The Australian Government should look at the wealth of its existing assets to determine what is underutilised. Then, it should look for a ‘We Economy’ approach that can be adopted to get more use and revenue from what is already owned.
- Enable local residents to quickly connect and engage with local governments to solve problems and effectively deliver services through apps such as SeeClickFix or the Randwick City Council’s illegal dumping report mechanism.
Australians have already begun to recognise that having access to an asset or service does not require owning it — now it’s time for public service leaders to get on board. For the public sector, the path to participation in the We Economy is not long, nor are the barriers high.
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