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EL ESPECTADOR

Why Latin America Should Go All In On The Sharing Economy

The collaborative approach to trade, production and services could help countries like Colombia end their dependence on raw materials.

Time to share
Time to share
Felipe Jánica

-Analysis-

BOGOTÁ — While we tend to think of the so-called sharing economy as a new concept — a product of the fourth industrial revolution — its origins are far older, as old as the economy itself. What's happening now, rather, is that due to the rise of e-trading and disruptive models that are ending certain logistical chains, the concept is developing and permeating popular speech.

For Latin America, there are both benefits and challenges involved with these economic shifts. But they also offer a real possibility to redevelop our battered economies. In Colombia's case, like with most Latin American economies, dependence on the sale of primary goods has caused considerable instability. Dependence on a good, especially commodities or natural resources, destabilizes economic growth in the two other types of goods: secondary and tertiary.

With primary goods (raw materials or renewable and non-renewable resources), prices are usually free-floating and depend on international rates set in this case in U.S. dollars. The greater our dependence on these goods, the less chance we have of pursuing real economic development, of diversifying, in other words, into industrial production (secondary goods) and providing world-class services (tertiary goods).

Dependence on the sale of primary goods has caused considerable instability.

The dollar's current price volatility makes diversification even more urgent — so as to avoid its negative effects on an already shaken economy. This is why Latin American economies should do all they can to seek alternatives. In our case, as I've written before, the state needs structural reform. That reform must envisage changes in education, justice, security, infrastructure, and cargo and passenger mobility inside the country.

In Bogota, Colombia — Photo: Random Institute

Colombia also needs to root out corruption and do away with inefficient bureaucracy in both the private and public sectors. And on the financial side, we need to overhaul the system of taxation. If this overhaul were fully implemented, the country's risk ratings would improve substantially, and that, in turn, would help make the country more competitive.

What we need to drive this scale of economic transformation are more and better jobs. This could be done by promoting private and public initiatives that involve the sharing economy concept. Its essence is fairly simple and based on the integration of producers and consumers in a community. Both sides have a common objective, so creating a collaborative framework between them facilitates their connection and, ultimately, the exchange of products and services.

The task of institutions should be to pave the way for revolutionary ideas like these.

Creating collaborative eco-systems to aid the mechanization of farming, say, may help yield a high-tech, industrialized farming sector. This industrialization would allow us to move on from the production of primary goods, with benefits for both producers and consumers, locally and abroad.

Exploiting the fourth industrial revolution and using its enablers (digital elements, the internet of things) will be fundamental for creating collaborative eco-systems. The task of institutions should be to pave the way for revolutionary ideas like these.

That they're still focused, for the most part, on traditional businesses rather than the collaborative model isn't surprising. But that's all the more reason why deep structural reforms are now a matter of urgency.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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