Saturday

16th Dec 2017

Magazine

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.

Opinion

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.

Stakeholder

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.

Focus

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.

Magazine

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.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives