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Sharing made easier by technology

I am amazed at the collective action that commuters in the San Francisco Bay area spontaneously take when commuting into the city. For the past 30 years commuters heading west across the San Francisco - Oakland Bay bridge have set up an informal carpool system where, on weekday mornings, both passengers and drivers meet at designated areas in the East Bay to ride share into downtown San Francisco. Nowadays dynamic carpooling has taken on a technological twist, passengers and drivers can connect with each other in real time using a variety of user-friendly smartphone applications.

While the idea of sharing isn’t new to these commuters, it is a relatively new phenomenon to the developed world at large as we are beginning to trust doing business with complete strangers. And it’s no wonder that Uber (which, not coincidentally, was founded in San Francisco) has recently won its battle to operate in New York City without a vehicle limit. Uber has been a highly visible and controversial car-booking app that is easier to use and often-cheaper due to its dynamic pricing than traditional taxis. The idea of sharing is catching on and online technology has enabled it to prosper.

Collaboration has disrupted many stable industries, just look at the popularity of Airbnb, which has uprooted the concept of a hotel room. (Airbnb… surprise, surprise, also started in the San Francisco Bay Area.) The population at large is able to rent out extra inventory in their homes, flats or vacation houses. Just like the commuters in East Bay, there is explicit trust between both the providers and the renters and, again, technology has underpinned this facility.

Business fund raising is another newly polished gem in our evolving economy. Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Crowdfunder, enable businesses, individuals and non-profits to put forth their case and raise funds.

This concept of collective action has gone mainstream and includes technology innovation through hackathons and energy usage in which individuals can sell their renewable energy surplus back to the grid. We no longer are relying on traditional service providers to drive us, lodge us or provide us with business loans, but rather we are relying on each other. We live in an evolving collaborative economy, which has been made possible by our online community.

Greta Paa-Kerner (@gretapk) is an Associate Lecturer on innovation and digital marketing as well as a Consultant through Ganduxer Consulting.

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