“Seoul Sharing City Project” is a remarkable and sparkling sharing project launched in 2013 and I think some common features (long working hours, high housing cost, high density housing, air pollution, little peer-to-peer exchange of goods, people became more isolated, growing number of seniors living alone, growing suicide rate etc.) and fertile ground (high fiber optic broadband penetration rate, fast internet, high smartphone penetration rate, good subway system etc.) between Seoul and Hong Kong can inspire the next step to promote the value of sharing in Hong Kong. Shall we utilize our densely-populated apartments in rebuilding a sense of community and sharing? Some sharing movements and examples may restore dissolved social services and communities and revive sharing culture in citizen’s daily lives. This is neither a solely government support exercise nor a pure grassroots citizen-driven sharing, Hong Kong needs to build infrastructure such as law, institution and social trust capital, the city needs to pave the way and strengthen the ecosystem for the sharing economy to strive. It means a sharing model couldn’t be a top-down nor bottom up approach; it should be a creative, private-NGOs-public partnership model.
How to encourage citizen participation? Dozens of prgrammes have been launched to support the initiative in Seoul and some of them may be made reference for HKSAR government and social service providers in Hong Kong (Johnson, 2014):
Public Wi-Fi: 1,992 wireless access points have been established at Seoul’s markets, parks and government offices.
Government (financial) Support: 461 million won has been invested in 27 sharing organizations or businesses. Among these are platforms that facilitate Airbnb-style home sharing, children’s clothing exchanges, parking space sharing, and goods sharing. These projects resulted in 359 shared parking lots; a 68% increase in homestays; and a doubling of the amount of children’s clothing shared from 18,000 to 40,000 items.
Housing and Inter-generational Connection: To address the housing crisis and reduce the social isolation of seniors, a program was created to match young people with idle rooms in seniors’ houses. There have been 28 matches to date.
Seoul Youth Hub: Another initiative of the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), Seoul Youth Hub is a place for young adults to come together face-to-face to design the future society.
Public Buildings: Since the launch of the Sharing City, 779 public buildings have been opened to the public during idle hours for events, meetings, and more. These buildings have been utilized over 22,000 times by Seoul citizens.
Startup Incubation: 20 teams were selected for the Youth Business Startup Incubation program where they were provided office space, funds, and training or consulting.
Startup School: To encourage entrepreneurialism, officials launched a program to help entrepreneurs understand the sharing economy and support them in creating sharing businesses.
Lending Libraries: 32 lending libraries have been opened for books, tool rental and repair (plus woodworking programs).
To make sharing economy possible, the HKSAR Government and NGOs should face up to improve those outdated regulation that hampers sharing (e.g. regulation of insurance). Government should actively implement the sharing policies initiatives and promote the sharing economy through public-NGO-private partnership. And Hong Kong can make reference to those sharing experience and successful cases in all sharing cities worldwide (e.g. Boston in US, Amsterdam in Netherlands, Napoli in Italy, Gothenburg in Sweden, Melbourne in Australia, Istanbul in Turkey, Seoul in South Korea etc.). But most important of all, we must recognize that no one could avoid contraction and conflict with old-habits, traditional social norms and exiting rules and regulation to make the society sustainable.