For several years analysts, consultants and commentators have warned of the dangers of digital disruption, urging organisations of all kinds — private and public — to embrace this disruption and embark on a process of digital transformation. Now, to stay ahead of the curve, an organisation needs to look beyond stand-alone digital transformation and explore digital synergies with other organisations.
This shift of focus, says Accenture in its Technology Vision report, represents “an unprecedented leap forward by organisations on the journey to becoming digital businesses”. It culminates in an entirely different way of doing business: “A hyperconnected world where companies, consumers and even everyday objects have instant capabilities to act and interact with each other digitally across the globe.”
Accenture calls this the “we economy” and says it offers savvy companies new strategies to compete and win in a digital world. The we economy provides rich opportunities for businesses to collaborate with other players in the digital ecosystem, to place “big bets” on new products, services and experiences — bets that would not have been possible just one or two years ago, but that today can shape new markets at scale. As the report notes:
“Pioneering companies have already realised the implications of tapping into a digital ecosystem. They see that in such digitally driven, hyper-connected times, they have the capacity for action beyond transforming themselves into digital businesses.”
Accenture Digital Lead David Maunsell says there is great potential for Australian government agencies to embrace the we economy by exploiting synergies amongst themselves and with the private sector. He points to one established and long-running example.
“About seven years ago one of the COAG agenda items was on improving the efficiency with which housing property sales could be lodged and settled in Australia,” Maunsell explained.
“Off the back of that Accenture worked with a company called Property Exchange Australia to develop a platform to allow different parties in the conveyancing ecosystem to come together on a common platform to share information about their responsibilities relating to the movement of a property from one owner to another and ultimately to connect the banks’ mortgage processing units with state revenue offices and the land title offices and with 20,000 or so lawyers and conveyancers across Australia. It is a great example of sharing information between participants in an ecosystem to drive a more efficient process.”
Why it’s good to share
However, sharing information is only the first phase of a we, or sharing, economy: there are very real benefits to be gained from the sharing of physical assets, Maunsell says. And the enabling technology is common to both.
“The [property exchange] platform has the same architecture as a lot of the idle capacity sharing platforms that dominate discussions around the we economy,” he said.
A survey carried out by Accenture in the United States of more than 3000 citizens and 130 public service leaders suggests that government adoption of the we economy is viewed favourably by citizens and government alike: 62% of citizens and 66% of leaders thought it would improve overall citizen satisfaction with government. Some 62% of citizens and 72% of leaders thought it would improve citizens’ views of government.
Maunsell says a number of overseas government agencies have already embraced the concept. “The City of Chicago already uses a ride sharing service called Zipcar to augment their access to a car fleet,” he said. “They are seeing reduced cost. New York City has announced that, by the end of 2020, they are going to eliminate 10% of their light duty vehicles and replace them with a ride sharing service.”
Maunsell cites other administrations that have taken the concept even further, integrating private and public sector services. In Dallas, the public can access Uber through the mobile phone ticketing system for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit network and book an Uber car to take them to their ultimate destination from the nearest DART station, and similarly from the start point of their journey to the nearest station.
Sharing data, regulating the economy
Closer to home, Accenture is building a system for the National Farmers Federation, the Digital Agriculture Service, that will, among other things, deliver up-to-date food and agribusiness news from industry sources along with weather and market information.
It will help Australian farmers avoid being overwhelmed by complex and disconnected data locked away by individual service providers, and enable them to use these data to enhance decision-making and improve profitability.“… it could be used to give a farmer access to idle tractors on a farm a couple of miles away.”
Maunsell says the system will give farmers across Australia access to a broad and deep dataset that they can use to run their farms and, ultimately, enable them to share data with suppliers of services to their farms. “In the future,” he said, “it could be used to give a farmer access to idle tractors on a farm a couple of miles away.”
While there are many opportunities for governments to participate in the we economy, Maunsell says its growth will also present considerable regulatory challenges to governments. “Governments will have to monitor these environments to make sure that the providers and users of these services are operating within their legal boundaries,” he said.
“That begs the question of whether government departments are set up to ingest all the data that is going to pour off this ecosystem, analyse it, figure out what is going wrong and then act accordingly. That is a question that is worthy of some public discussion.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission already has the sharing economy on its radar. In October 2015 it released a report — The sharing economy and the Competition and Consumer Act — and chairman Rod Simms has flagged the sharing economy as a possible subject for inclusion in the upcoming review of Australian consumer law.