Lessons from Airbnb and Uber to Open Government as a Platform

Interview by Marquis Cabrera with Sangeet Paul Choudary: “…Platform companies have a very strong core built around data, machine learning, and a central infrastructure. But they rapidly innovate around it to try and test new things in the market and that helps them open themselves for further innovation in the ecosystem. Governments can learn to become more modular and more agile, the way platform companies are. Modularity in architecture is a very fundamental part of being a platform company; both in terms of your organizational architecture, as well as your business model architecture.

The second thing that governments can learn from a platform company is that successful platform companies are created with intent. They are not created by just opening out what you have available. If you look at the current approach of applying platform thinking in government, a common approach is just to take data and open it out to the world. However, successful platform companies first create a shaping strategy to shape-out and craft a direction of vision for the ecosystem in terms of what they can achieve by being on the platform. They then provision the right tools and services that serve the vision to enable success for the ecosystem[1] . And only then do they open up their infrastructure. It’s really important that you craft the right shaping strategy and use that to define the rights tools and services before you start pursuing a platform implementation.

In my work with governments, I regularly find myself stressing the importance of thinking as a market maker rather than as a service provider. Governments have always been market makers but when it comes to technology, they often take the service provider approach.

In your book, you used San Francisco City Government and Data.gov as examples of infusing platform thinking in government. But what are some global examples of governments, countries infusing platform thinking around the world?

One of the best examples is from my home country Singapore, which has been at the forefront of converting the nation into a platform. It has now been pursuing platform strategy both overall as a nation by building a smart nation platform, and also within verticals. If you look particularly at mobility and transportation, it has worked to create a central core platform and then build greater autonomy around how mobility and transportation works in the country. Other good examples of governments applying this are Dubai, South Korea, Barcelona; they are all countries and cities that have applied the concept of platforms very well to create a smart nation platform. India is another example that is applying platform thinking with the creation of the India stack, though the implementation could benefit from better platform governance structures and a more open regulation around participation….(More)”.