19th Mar 2018


EU cities try their own 'Ubers'

  • The so-called sharing economy has reshaped how we live and work, while shaking up traditional industries. (Photo: Nucleo)

Frustrated that they no longer really knew what was happening in their own neighbourhood, Gaspar Horvath and a group of friends clubbed together to set up an online platform to share information - and anything else from ladders to a helping hand - with others in their area.

Two years later, more than 40,000 people in Hungary are using the platform, called OurStreet.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • A loosening of regulation on sharing renewable energy resources in Germany by 2018 means people will be able to rent out energy from one day to another. (Photo: Panos Mitsios/Greenpeace)

"You don't have to buy everything - you can share with others, sharing is the value in itself, ownership is unnecessary," Horvath told EUobserver.

He sees the site as fulfilling a public function, to create a more liveable community, and thinks such platforms could be an ideal communication channel between the local government and citizens.

Horvath is among a new generation of entrepreneurs attempting to bridge the gap between the sharing economy, exemplified by firms like Airbnb and Uber, and the old world of government bureaucracies.

Cities have reacted to these changes in technology and economy in a variety of ways – some have banned or restricted both Uber and Airbnb. Others have welcomed them as a boost to the economy.

But some experts are looking closely, and hoping that cities learn deeper lessons from these so-called disruptors.

"It's a wake-up call in areas where there has been no innovation, for example the taxi industry. They introduce whole new ways of collecting customers," Dorthe Nielsen, policy director of Eurocities, a network of European cities, told EUobserver.

The "secret" to the success of these companies is that they don't have assets themselves, and they provide the right platform for sharing. Smartphones make them easy and fast to use, while the market is global, so they can expand on a massive scale.

"For cities it is more interesting if a service pulls together resources from a neighbourhood that build communities," she said, "these have real added value to the cities."

She cites examples of smaller car-sharing services emerging in cities where Uber was banned.

Digital democracy

Eurocities is overseeing research into the possibility of using digital platforms to improve public services and will hold its annual conference in Milan in November on the subject.

"Digital platforms are fundamentally changing public administrations, by incorporating ideas from citizens in places like Utrecht, Ghent, Bologna, Copenhagen or Amsterdam," Nielsen said.

These platforms are used to test citizens' wishes, or to assess what core issues are important for locals. Some local governments use it for example to decide on the use of public spaces.

"Local governments are usually not very innovative," says Alanus von Radecki, at Fraunhofer IAO research institute in Germany, who studies urban engineering and development.

But he highlights some who are making headway. For example, Eindhoven and London are tailoring services based on data monitoring, and providing open data to their citizens.

More sharing

And there is more to come.

Radecki thinks the next possible sector where online sharing services might come up is energy. A loosening of regulation on sharing renewable energy resources in Germany by 2018 means people will be able to rent out energy from one day to another.

Nielsen thinks the next sector where the sharing economy could thrive could be health, with care for elderly people for instance enhanced by a web-based community.

"These tools are likely to continue to develop to connect people. We can look forward to a more inclusive, more connected, more shared, more fun city in the next five to 10 years," Nielsen said.

For that, she added, city leaders need the powers to support and regulate such initiatives so they benefit local communities.

This story was originally published in EUobserver's 2016 Regions & Cities Magazine.

Click here to read previous editions of our Regions & Cities magazine.


It's time to ditch EU anti-Uber business rules

Should Uber drivers be licensed in the same way as taxi drivers? A case at the EU court of justice should be an opportunity to make innovation and entrepreneurship easier.


Unleashing the sharing economy

The size of the sharing economy has doubled between 2014 and 2015, according to the European Commission. Along with it are new business models that EU legislation have yet to keep up with.


Uber: Goodbye Denmark, but not farewell

Ride-sharing service Uber has announced it will shut down activities in Denmark in protest over a new law introducing the same requirements for Uber as for other taxi services.


The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction