Future of Sharing: Using Technology to Create a New Operating System for Cities

Stephen Yarwood, the former Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Australia, is a firm believer in our digital future. “I’ve always been convinced that technology was going to not only drive change, but create a new operating system for cities,” said Yarwood. Now Yarwood runs his own consultancy firm, called city 2050, and serves on Airbnb’s Mayoral Advisory Board, in addition to renting out his own home on Airbnb. He warns city officials against over-regulating particular companies in the sharing economy, for fear of undermining the trajectory of the entire sharing economy. “I think people want solutions in their lives,” Yarwood says, “but they don’t want to be told what to do.” Yarwood pointed to the example of dairy farmers in Australia and New Zealand, who are struggling to make ends meet as dairy prices drop. These farmers can now supplement their incomes by renting rooms on their dairy farms to locals and tourists interested in learning more about the industry in a personalized way.

Yarwood believes that government should support the mapping of neural networks and the creation of opportunities to help society become more sustainable, more livable, and more productive. Most cities lose billions in economic productivity from people sitting in traffic jams, says Yarwood. “The real key to the future of cities—and the sharing economy is a big part of this—is making cities more productive, giving people access to the resources they need.” Yarwood believes we need to have a conversation around what it means to create a “cognitive” city. “Over the next ten to fifteen years, we need to make sure we’re setting down the right values, and supporting the right people to make sure we’re creating the right networks,” said Yarwood.