Public sector will benefit from the shared economy, says government report

Greater shared services in the public sector is among the issues raised in the Unlocking the Sharing Economy government report published today

Greater shared services in the public sector was among the issues raised in the Unlocking the sharing economy government report, published today.

The report said: "Public sector organisations have started finding efficiencies by sharing back-office functions such as HR – but this is only the beginning."

The report highlighted how government bodies that use the concept of "sharing cities" – as in Seoul and Amsterdam, for example – offer shared local council buildings with community groups; build housing developments with car club bays incorporated and integrated into the local transport network; and create local online hubs, where residents and businesses can share their skills and assets with each other.

The report said the UK government should pilot a "sharing city" – where transport, shared office space, accommodation and skills networks are joined together, and residents are encouraged to share as part of their daily lives.

Efficiencies in government services

The London Borough of Newham and Havering is an example of where shared back-office council services can improve efficiency and save money.  Geoff Connell, head of ICT at shared-services programme oneSouce, is now expanding the shared-service concept across seven local authorities, by moving council back-office enterprise resource planning (ERP) into a shared private cloud, operated by Capgemini.

The report recommended government embrace the opportunities of the sharing economy, to make its operations more efficient and make better use of public resources.

Regulations need to be examined to ensure they remain fit for purpose and meet expectations, said the report’s author, Debbie Wosskow, founder of the Collaborative Consumption Europe group and CEO of Love Home Swap.

The report stated: "The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) and The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) should closely monitor the development of innovative and developing sharing business models, to ensure regulations keep pace with new ways of doing things, and to ensure the UK is at the forefront of the development of new, more sustainable business models."

Regulatory obstacles to the sharing economy

Mirroring her remarks, Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, called for changes in government regulation to support the sharing economy. "Regulation will play an important role in the coming year and it's great to see the UK government asking the question of what types of regulation can best protect consumers, while also encouraging and supporting the entrepreneurs seeking to challenge the status quo," said Branson. 

"The UK has an opportunity to be a leading example in the international Sharing Economy market and today’s recommendations are a very sensible step towards this."

As Computer Weekly has previously reported, the sharing economy has already caused controversy in some countries. In the US, hotel firms have complained that Airbnb allows people to avoid paying taxes on renting properties, as well as circumventing the rules and regulations to which other companies in the sector are forced to adhere. 

Taxi-hailing mobile app Uber has led to protests by taxi drivers in London and elsewhere about unlicensed cab drivers unfairly competing with regulated providers.

To support the shared economy, the report urged the government to open up the identity verification system to private-sector services – including sharing economy businesses – in a bid to build consumers’ trust in online transactions in the sharing economy.

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