Live revision! Join us for our free exam revision livestreams Watch now

In the News

Technology as a Disruptive Force

Graham Watson

9th June 2014

There are two fantastic articles today that look at the role of technology as a force for good, reducing barriers to entry, increasing economic efficiency and trampling over vested interests. But it is really that simple?

The two industries involved are dramatically different: London cabs and estate agents. I've regard for one and not the other. However, both are threatened by digital technology.

This BBC piece - Uber versus Black Cabs - highlights how the traditional London cabby is under threat.

The rise of Uber - the smartphone-based cab service which cabbies say is ruining their livelihoods. The real issue is that cabbies feel that Uber drivers have been unfairly advantaged, and licensed without due care and attention. In contrast, London cabbies spend three years acquiring 'the Knowledge' - learning London's streets, and undergoing psychological training too.

However, is their protest anything more than opposing a technological advance bringing more competition to the market and removing something that represented a significant barrier to entry? And if it isn't, do they deserve our sympathy or not?

The other article looks at estate agents - Estate Agent Chief Condemns Online Parasites - with the head of a new property website backed by traditional estate agents arguing

“The online option is a bit of a con, only doing 20pc of the job a full-service estate agent does but not getting the high prices and therefore what you’re paying might not amount to very much.”

I'll leave you to decipher the economics but as far as I can make out, it's 'a bit of a con of a bit of a con'. Recent history suggests that houses sell themselves - estate agents didn't shift many in the aftermath of the financial crisis and now houses are selling themselves. If you read the Comments section beneath the article, you'll find that most people agree with my assessment

Graham Watson

Graham Watson has taught Economics for over twenty years. He contributes to Tutor2U, reads voraciously and is interested in all aspects of Teaching and Learning.

© 2002-2024 Tutor2u Limited. Company Reg no: 04489574. VAT reg no 816865400.