Customs & Border Management

What the Public Sector Can Learn From Uber

When most people hear the word Uber they think about a mobile app that allows them to book car services. However, Uber is much more than that. Uber is a dynamic peer-to-peer market making platform that connects buyers and sellers and helps address supply and demand inefficiencies in markets.

Uber and other market making platforms like Airbnb and TaskRabbit have disrupted traditional industries by providing digital platforms that match people who want to share assets online. Platforms like these are now common place in the ‘sharing economy’ and their applications can be seen globally across industries.

While countless start-ups and entrepreneurs across industries have embraced the opportunities of these market making platforms, governments and public sector organizations have yet to exploit the potential of this capability. There are multiple potential applications for market making platforms to address critical social and economic issues in societies around the world. Here are just a few potential opportunities where market making platforms could be leveraged to help address societal issues:

Childcare finder: Platform enabling parents and guardians to be able to find emergency daycare, babysitting services (critical for single working parents and transitioning workers)

Agriculture development (Rural and Urban): Platform to connect small farmers with local and regional markets, restaurants, co-ops, etc. to reduce food miles and drive economic growth

Healthcare provider marketplace: Platform to connect patients with providers (based on their location) – enabling them to find available services (e.g., ER, urgent care) and schedule appointments with vetted providers

Foster care network marketplace: Allowing juveniles and case workers to find openings for short-term care in emergency situations

Shelter match: Allowing individuals, law enforcement, and social workers to search for and reserve availability in shelters for homeless and/or displaced individuals

Volunteer match: Allowing organizations and individuals to connect on volunteer opportunities (including environmental and community clean up efforts)

Counseling support: Platform to connect individuals with available counseling resources (e.g., mental health, suicide prevention, drug and alcohol support)

Employment market: Platform matching day and temporary laborers with contractors in various service areas (e.g., construction, HVAC) (Can also be extended to professional services direct to consumers)

This list simply represents a sampling of the potential applications in the public sector. People far smarter than I can surely come up with a near endless list of value added opportunities. Too often we focus solely on industry peers for leading practices and innovative ideas. Governments and other public sector organizations need to open their horizons and reimagine how their organizations can fulfill their missions in new and innovative ways. The next time you’re sitting in an Uber, consider how their business model could transform how you operate and deliver services.

Research Lead, IBM Institute for Business Value

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