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Taiwan seen as well-positioned for sharing economy, despite challenges

2017/11/14 19:45:05

Pieter van de Glind (left on stage)

Taipei, Nov. 14 (CNA) Taiwan has great potential to develop sharing economies in some of its cities, thanks to its well-developed infrastructure, although there are some challenges, experts and industry representatives said at a forum on Tuesday.

Taiwan has the advantage of high IT penetration, which allows its citizens easy Internet access for the exchange of information on demand and supply, said Pieter van de Glind, co-founder of the Sharing City Alliance, a global network that promotes collaborative economy.

Another upside is that the Taiwanese industry in general seems to be open to the concept of collaborative economy, he said.

Governmental bodies are curious about the worldwide trend and are trying to adjust their long-held policies to fit the new business model, van de Glind said.

In Taiwan's private sector, there seems to be growing interest among existing companies and also increasingly among startups, he told CNA at the forum, which was held by Collab & Share Taiwan, a budding association that promotes the concept of sharing economy.

The idea of the association was initiated by direct stakeholders such as ride-hailing company Uber and bike-sharing startup oBike, whose services in Taiwan have been challenging traditional ways of doing businesses and have stirred controversy.

Mathilda Wang (王妍婷), general manager of oBike, told CNA an alliance is needed to help industry players negotiate with the government.

"We hope that the government could come up with a vision for industry development before imposing regulations -- which are often outdated and unfair -- on us," Wang said.

The service of the stationless bike-sharing platform oBike has been criticized by people who argue that the bikes often occupy motorbike parking spaces or are parked in such a way that they obstruct pedestrian traffic.

Wang said, however, that the company is more than willing to comply with government policies, ranging from taxation to royalties, but such issues should be considered at a national level and examined by the public in a transparent manner.

For instance, the royalties vary in different cities and counties, which makes it difficult for the company and the industry in general to evolve in Taiwan, she said.

Tao Chi-chung (陶治中), an associate professor at the Department of Transportation Management at Tamkang University, suggested that the members of the association focus more on public interest so that they could gain the government's trust.

For example, Uber, which has been criticized as infringing on the rights of local taxi drivers, could start offering carpooling services in tribal areas in eastern Taiwan, where there is almost no access to public transportation, before moving into metropolitan markets, Tao suggested.

Such goodwill would convince the government to open up the new business model since it would also bring benefits to the public in a way that the government cannot achieve, he said.

For sharing economy to thrive in Taiwan, however, it is important to connect to the global community, exchange information and experience, and promote the idea of trust in the mechanism of sharing economy, in the platforms that facilitate its operation, and in other individuals, van de Glind said.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)