Uber’s legal struggle underscores ‘promise and...
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Nov 21, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Uber’s legal struggle underscores ‘promise and peril’ of digital age: Tapscott

Digital economy is a positive force but author says he’s ‘torn’ over some of the questions it raises, including whether unregulated digital broadcasters like Netflix should pay tax on revenue earned online

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Just as the Digital Economy, 20th Anniversary Edition landed at retailers this fall a legal fight over a Web-based ride sharing service was heating up to neatly underscore the book’s subtitle: RethinkingPromise and Peril in the age of Networked Intelligence.

“Uber is the perfect example,” Digital Economy author Don Tapscott said referring to the San Francisco-based app that allows customers to hail a taxi, private car or rideshare using a mobile phone.

“It’s just so striking,” said the Toronto-born author who is an alumnus and chancellor of Trent University in Peterborough.

“On the one hand it is delivering a great service and consumers love it. It has brought the tonic of the market to bear on the transportation industry in many cities and it’s caused the taxi companies to start to get their act together.”

But, on the other hand, he said in an interview, “we do need to have some controls, some standards.”

Citing concerns over safety among other things, Toronto city council is seeking an injunction to prevent Uber from operating within the city’s limits, while Uber drivers in Ottawa are being fined $650 for operating a taxi without proper licensing.

Tapscott said the issue highlights a consequence of the digital revolution, parts of which were foretold in the original Digital Economy authored in 1994 and the 14 other books he has written or co-authored including Paradigm Shift and Wikinomics.

His prescience about such things as cloud storage, social media and the digital connection of everyday devices has produced a book jacket embarrassment of riches.

The jacket boasts quotes from admirers ranging from the president of Mexico to long-time friend and collaborator Eric Schmidt, the executive chair of Google.

Schmidt in the foreword to the anniversary edition, which includes the original text with new essays and updates, said along with forging new personal freedoms and improving market efficiency, the Web has also unearthed privacy threats that Tapscott foretold decades ago.

He said while it created Amazon and revolutionized consumer retailing, it also empowered a new breed of criminal cyber hackers. Apple’s iTunes gave music lovers untold control over their personal playlists, but it helped kill neighborhood record stores.

While Tapscott calls the digital economy a strong and positive force, he is “torn” over some of the questions it raises, including for example whether unregulated digital broadcasters like Netflix should pay tax on revenue earned online.

Tapscott said they probably should but common sense needs to apply at this still early stage and laws and institutions need to be revamped to reflect the new realities.

“It’s not easy, but it’s absolutely something that we’re going to have to step up to,” he said.

Many regulations seem “sort of outmoded” but they need to be made relevant, not be discarded. What society should not do, he said, is take a legal hammer to digital economy innovation.

Instead, he said the change should be embraced while corporations work to reinvent their business models.

Speaking of his new book, meanwhile, Tapscott said the project is a way to mark what he called the first bestseller about the Web in the world of business.

He admits that not everything he has written over the years has held up but Tapscott did anticipate the emergence of the consumer as producer in a social media world and wrote a chapter more than two decades ago that predicted a firestorm over digital privacy.

Tapscott in the new book’s foreword, however, said he’d “like to detract the Enron case study from one of my books.” And he admits that he did not entirely anticipate the ubiquitous rise of the smartphone in the 1990s when mobile phones were clunky and limited to voice calling.

Toronto Star

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(1) Comment

By StatusQuoContinues | NOVEMBER 23, 2014 05:04 PM
Uber's struggle is against the status quo and the monopolies is has created along with the wealth it creates for these people. It offers a new approach to doing business, and allows the information highway to do what is does best connect the needy with their needs. How is uber's business strategy any different than a friend asking for a ride and the rider paying for the gas money in return?. What about people who carpool as a way to save money on their commute? should these people be forced to call the cab or use public transport? Think about it, of course the established industry is going to use fear mongering to stop this IT'S BAD FOR THEIR BUSINESS AND MONOPOLY.
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