Wednesday

26th Jun 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 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.

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.

News in Brief

  1. EU warns Turkey as 'Gezi Park' trials begin
  2. EU universities to share students, curricula
  3. Migrant rescue ship loses Human Rights Court appeal
  4. Denmark completes social democrat sweep of Nordics
  5. Johnson offers 'do or die' pledge on Brexit
  6. Weber indirectly attacks Macron in newspaper op-ed
  7. EU to sign free trade deal with Vietnam
  8. EU funding of air traffic control 'largely unnecessary'

Magazine

A deep dive into the EU regional funds

While the regional funds account for a full third of the EU budget, they are somewhat under-reported. EUobserver's latest edition of the Regions & Cities magazine looks at the EU's cohesion policy.

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  4. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  6. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  7. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  8. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  9. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate

Latest News

  1. EU moves to end car-testing 'confidentiality clause'
  2. EU parliament gives extra time for leaders on top jobs
  3. Europe's rights watchdog lifts Russia sanctions
  4. EU-Vietnam trade deal a bad day for workers' rights
  5. EU 'special envoy' going to US plan for Palestine
  6. Polish judicial reforms broke EU law, court says
  7. EU study: no evidence of 'East vs West' food discrimination
  8. Russia tried to stir up Irish troubles, US think tank says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us