In Bogota, Colombia
In Bogota, Colombia
Rafael Orduz

BOGOTA — The significance of Uber goes well beyond its specific function, which is to connect willing drivers with people who need to move around in a safe, comfortable and punctual manner. The deeper message of the controversial digital application — and others like it — is in the changing way labor and service markets are organized by providing new means of satisfying the needs of consumers who are better informed than we could have ever imagined in the past.

I won't dwell here on the legal arguments for or against Uber, or the fact that reactive lobbying has won for now in Spain and the Netherlands. The application remains active in more than 50 countries and its turnover in 2014 was over $1 billion. It already has emulators in California, such as Lyft and Sidecar.

What I do want to point out is that the Uber model is effectively applicable to any field. With mobile platforms, people can post information on a range of needs, anywhere and at any time and be connected with others who are able and ready to satisfy those needs.

A typical organizational prototype is this: A small firm identifies a range of home services that households might need at any time (plumbing, electricity, cleaning). The firm then "recruits" thousands of suitable people and offers through the digital platform and makes the information available to customers who can then purchase the services at a price that suits them.

Another website, Airbnb, provides more than half a million rooms and lodgings at varied prices, worldwide. Its model is simple: Homes with unused rooms register with this platform and customers, including here in Colombia, access what they need in a safe and easy manner. As with Uber, hotel associations in various countries want Airbnb blocked.

Services provided online this way include those of programmers, home-visit doctors, accountants, cooks or hairdressers. In the U.S., some firms are even following this model to pay for temporary CEOs to resolve specific problems.

Seven years after the 2008 financial crisis, joblessness is rampant around the world. In Colombia, the youth unemployment rate is double the national average, and if you consider underemployment as well, the situation is downright scary.

It is quite probable that in the coming years, hundreds of thousands of Colombians, especially the young, will offer their talents and services through platforms without seeking the permission of traditional business owners. It is economy dictacted by demand. Those who would wish it away are simply being shortsighted.

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Geopolitics

Waiting For Putin: Is Ukraine Caught In New Kind Of Cuban Missile Crisis?

Will there, or will there not be a Big War with Russia? Ukrainians try to gauge what happens next as tensions remain following the call between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.

Barbed wire near the Russia-Ukraine border

Valentin Sprinchak/TASS via ZUMA
Anna Akage

The two-hour conversation between the Presidents of the United States and Russia, to the surprise of virtually nobody, ended without any break in the tension. Both Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin spoke in clear and plain terms during the talk Tuesday, over a secured video link, as Russian troops have amassed at the Ukrainian border and the world fears the growing risk of an invasion.

Putin insisted that NATO missiles in the region are a red line, while Biden threatened to cut Russia out of the international financial system if Russia invades Ukraine. Another phone call, this time from Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is planned for the end of this week.

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