Unstoppable BAT FANGs

infrastructure

Collaboration is good. You do what you are best at and leave the rest to others. In one sense your partners provide the infrastructure you rely on. Yet it has not worked out this way with the BAT FANGs (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google). With their infrastructure they have captured the value. Network effects and resultant size may mean they, or their ilk, have become unstoppable. Governments are increasingly trying to tax and regulate but they may be too late. Many of the companies are bigger, and stronger financially, than the countries they reach into. If a Government oversteps, the BAT FANGs, or more worryingly the country’s citizens, may react. A company can abandon most individual countries easily and with limited consequences. Worse though is that motivated, networked, citizens, operating outside traditional formal structures, can actually bring a Government to its knees – as President Macron is discovering with the Gilets Jaunes. Which companies persist may change – incumbents may move from operating in largely different realms to competing in winner takes all struggles and Uber is a potential entrant as it spread and dominates logistics – but will the dominance of such savvy “infrastructure” providers?

City transport: Not just bikes or cars

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Transport should be seen as multimodal not one mode or another. Some places are getting it. Use an electric scooter to get to a taxi rank in Singapore then fold it and put it in the boot. Cycle to a bus stop in San Diego then attach your bike to the front of the bus. Check in your bags at Central in Hong Kong for an easier trip to the airport. Sydney is not. Billions and years are being spent building specialized trams and tunnels. Regular arguments arise between car owners and bike riders about the wrongs of the other. The city is schizophrenic wanting to be part Copenhagen, small, compact and bike focused, part Los Angeles, sprawling and car dependent and part Singapore, dense, high and with an excellent meshed public transport system. Yet it is none and its aspirations are backward looking to other places and times. The world is moving forward and there are many more transport needs, uses and choices emerging. Battery powered scooters, human powered bikes and drone powered deliveries.  Sydney could defend existing players and fall behind. It could let large corporations sneak in, define the field in their interests and build out, as Uber is from ridesharing to food delivery to scooter hire. Oh they get the future! Or it could plan for a complex, multimodal future. What rules are needed to facilitate freedom safely. How do we avoid knee jerk reactions, like the banning of electric scooter rentals in Madrid when an accident happens. Restricting scooters to bike lanes and single lane roads, as they were, seemed eminently sensible and still does. Tweak if necessary but do not turn away.   The future is only going to get more complex.