Singapore Sharing City: Unlocking New Opportunities and Building Stronger Communities
21 July 2017
3.30pm – 5.00pm. Registration from 3.00pm, seated by 3.30pm
SMU Seminar Room B1-1 School of Social Sciences
Lecture Poster (PDF: 208KB)
Lecture Report (PDF: 216KB)
Lecture Transcript (PDF: 1.01MB)
Lecture Video & Photos
On the one hand, the sharing economy offers opportunities for more social, sustainable, and economically resilient cities. On the other hand, challenges like consumer and worker protection, a level playing field, and innovation of regulation are increasingly important for cities to deal with. In his keynote presentation, Harmen van Sprang will address both these opportunities and challenges of this rapidly growing phenomenon and give a holistic view on what it means to be a sharing city. By using the perspective of a person, a platform, a business, and a government, he will make you aware that we are all part of this emerging ecosystem.
This is Harmen van Sprang’s advice to his two young daughters—and also cities in the age of the sharing
economy. The co-founder of Amsterdam’s shareNL and the Sharing Cities Alliance came by CLC in July to
share his views on the opportunities and challenges of this rapidly growing ecosystem around the world.
Besides the more familiar sharing of cars, the Dutch are also freely sharing goods—ranging from
power drills to tennis racquets—with one another via Peerby, and using Shareyourmeal.net to sell
excess home cooked meals. While sharing platforms now run the gamut from pure sharing to
profit-generating, as well as peer-to-peer and peer-to-business-to-peer, Mr van Sprang said this was
“not a return to a socialist model.” Instead, he sees this rise as city dwellers desiring to share more,
an attitude he summed up as: “I play in the city with everything that is already there.”
Sharing as citizens, businesses and the government
With the rise of a city that shares, “a citizen has many more roles today,” said Mr van Sprang.
As sellers, drivers, teachers, caregivers, cooks, handymen, amongst others, citizens are now empowered
to not just raise their earnings but also become more socially resilient as many sharing platforms
operate on the premise of mutual trust. Businesses also benefit from the sharing economy as there
are opportunities to provide support. For instance, insurance companies can ensure underwriting for
services or goods providers in the sharing economy, and other complementary services.
Faced with changes in the economy and society,
Mr van Sprang said governments should not treat the
sharing economy as “a question of ban or authorise.”
Instead of just rewarding or penalising behaviour
through tax breaks and fines, he suggested the
government research, map and monitor the
sharing economy. Multilateral organisations such
as the European Commission and Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development
have already started tracking figures on the
sharing economy. In addition, Mr van Sprang says
governments can collaborate with sharing platforms,
and even provide unused government resources.
To encourage the growth of the sharing economy, Mr van Sprang has helped initiate the Amsterdam
Sharing City, and is also an advisory board member of Sharing City Seoul. These organisations have
come up with action plans to stimulate the sharing economy and lead by example. For instance, in the
South Korean capital, Sharehub Seoul drives and monitors sharing activities, including educating citizens
and organising events.
The challenges of sharing
Even while championing for sharing, Mr van Sprang is aware how it can inconvenience the city. For
instance, holiday rentals have grown tremendously in a short period because “everyone is putting their
house on Airbnb”. The increased access to travel means a higher carbon footprint and sometimes the
lack of affordable housing. There is also the issue of how to keep a “fair playing field” between traditional
hotels and Airbnb as this has an implication on social security with changes in the nature for employment.
And while sharing platforms may enable sharing, Mr van Sprang also noted that some are less open to
giving access to their data, which makes monitoring and regulatory planning difficult. This is one reason
why he sees the sharing ecosystem as “about society—not so much economy.” Whether it is something
as sophisticated as a digital platform that maps a whole city, or as “low-tech” as putting out a shelf to
share things you no longer need, the key for either to succeed is a “sharing society” that trusts one another.
Written by Leong Wen Shan. This report first appeared in the
Aug 2017 Better Cities newsletter.
About the Speakers
Mr Harmen van Sprang
Co-founder Sharing Cities Alliance
Mr Harmen van Sprang is a an independent expert in the field of sharing (or collaborative) economy. He advises startups, companies, cities, and (inter) national governments and frequently brings them together to inspire them and create impact. A member of the advisory board of Sharing City Seoul, he is also one of the initiators of Amsterdam Sharing City and more recently of the global Sharing Cities Alliance. He is also the co-author of a business book called 'Share'.
Dr Faizal Bin Yahya
Senior Research Fellow Economics and Business Research Cluster Lead
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
Institute of Policy Studies (IPS)
Prior to joining IPS, Dr Faizal was an Assistant Professor in the South Asian Studies Programme, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, National University of Singapore and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. He has also served in the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was part of the Singapore Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly and involved in multilateral meetings dealing with environmental issues such as climate change.