The internet is the single most important technological drive behind the rise and growth of the sharing economy. It’s made sharing skills, knowledge, rooms, cars, and even sofas, more and more popular because it’s simply so easy to communicate instantly via the internet.
The internet is the primary market space of the sharing economy. Most businesses in the sharing economy are based on internet apps that rent directly to consumers or connect consumers for peer-to-peer access.
This culture of sharing commodities and services via digital platforms is really helping to save people money.
While it is true that there are still some intermediaries between users of various platforms that serve to share goods and services, these only remain a small part of the transaction between users because the fixed costs are very low and the marginal cost of each additional transaction is practically zero. Good examples of this process are the Airbnb or HomeAway applications. These apps connect millions of people with rental homes, rooms and other services across the world.
Thanks to the “sharing economy”, also known as the “circular economy”, new services are flourishing that allow people to share or rent practically anything.
A key part of the the sharing economy is subscriptions: a monthly or annual fee to access a wealth of commodities and various services.
You can rent toys (Baby Plays, Rent That Toy!, Spark Box Toys), clothes and accessories (e.g. Rent The Runway, I-Ella, Avelle and Tie Society), recycled products with The Freecycle Network, and ThredUP, borrow a car through SocialCar or Turo, and even gardens via SharedEarth, amongst numerous other things.
It’s also possible to share money, in the form of microcredits. These can be donated to people in need via secure platforms such as Grameen Bank, a community development bank started in Bangladesh by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. This bank provides small loans for people from impoverished societies, without requiring collateral.
In addition to reducing costs, sharing initiatives make it easier to consume less, which can have a positive impact on the environment. Car sharing, for example, reduces the number of vehicles on the roads. Fewer cars means lower emissions, and ultimately cleaner towns and cities.
On top of that, retailers themselves will pollute less because, in the interests of meeting the demand for products that last a long time to be shared over and over again by their users, the quality and durability of these products, should in theory be improved. This should reduce waste, if products are built to be longer lasting.
By 2025, the collaborative or sharing economy will account for more than $335 billion. In Spain currently, these companies account for between 1% and 1.4% of total GDP (gross domestic product), but by 2025 they will account for almost 2.9%.
Anyone can participate in the sharing economy. In fact, whether you realise it or not, you probably already do.
If you don’t yet, you probably will soon enough.