#DeleteUber: How much will activism shape the on-demand economy?


I was recently interviewed for a News Corp article on the Australian response to the global backlash on Uber.

I told the journalist in our interview that while I know a number of Australians who have deleted Uber, most Australians focus on the utility of the service. I was quoted:

Futurist Ross Dawson said Australians had embraced Uber with a willingness to overlook some transgressions.

“The reality is that Uber would not be the company that it is today, with the scope and potential that it has, without having actively flouted some rules and regulations and pushed the boundaries,” Mr Dawson said.

“At the time when Australian states were pushing back against Uber’s aggression, the vast majority of people were saying `I like you, it’s better than taxis’.”

Mr Dawson said the test of Australia’s loyalty to the Uber app could come in the future with Uber’s long-term vision replacing its fleet of drivers with self-driving cars.

Until recently activism has primarily impacted establishment companies in sectors such as banking, oil & gas, or retail. Technology companies have been seen by many as welcome disruptors of the status quo.

Now the power of the new vanguard – and often their business models – are exposing them to censure and even boycotts, with the Uber backlash epitomizing this social shift.

I wrote earlier about the potential for boycotts for companies that use automation in preference to human employees. This is a real possibility.

Before that point, the usefulness of on-demand services – with value concentrated on the leaders in winner-take-most markets – means that many will overlook any qualms they may have. However platform markets can tip away from incumbents – and being deeply disliked can prove a tipping point in enabling market shifts.

Consumer attitudes and activism will absolutely shape on-demand markets as they evolve, and may at times even help drive winners and losers – both individual and corporate.

Image: Aaron Parecki