OBike’s recent exit from the Singaporean market has had many of its users up in arms about not being able to get a return on their deposit. The company has stated that its decision is due to the difficulties posed by having to register for a license with the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
The LTA’s new regulation requiring operators to register has seen several bicycle-sharing startups exiting the Singaporean market, but this is not an unwelcome move for most Singaporeans; we are finally beginning to see an end to the “eyesores” that the misused and abandoned bicycles had become.
At the zenith of Singapore’s bike-sharing economy, bicycles (some in working order, others missing a crucial part or two) littered the streets, blocking pedestrian pathways. The metal contraptions could also be found in canals, piled up in mini trash heaps beside large trees, and even served as projectiles to be flung from the higher storeys of Housing Development Board flats.
While it is clear that the bike sharing services were being abused, our response towards these abuses revealed the parties we thought were responsible: the onus of removing these bikes was placed on the service operators, and the licensing requirements mentioned above were later imposed.
We have a penchant for blaming developers of an idea when abuses of their product or service occur. Look at startups like Tinder and Paktor. Such dating apps were launched to connect people, to make dating easier and more hassle-free. But some have blamed these dating apps for the rise of STDs.
Instead of criticising users of the app for engaging in sexual activity without proper protection, or even education ministries for providing sex education that does not emphasise safe sex, why do we criticise the existence of the applications and those who create them?
If this doesn’t sound ridiculous enough, the Indian government recently threatened to “take legal action” against messaging service provider, WhatsApp, because some of its users had been spreading fake information via the platform.
When disruptive innovation does what it is supposed to do — modify the way people interact with the world around them — people may, understandably, be hesitant about the changes it brings. If the innovation makes our lives easier and more convenient, chances are, abuses of the system also come more easily. If the innovation has far-reaching effects on our lives, chances are, abuses of it will also result in effects that are of equally great influence to our lives.
But this should not blind us to the usefulness of the idea: we must learn to differentiate between effects that are a direct result of the innovation and those from the abuse of said innovation. Both bike sharing and dating apps, for example, can and do generate positive externalities that benefit our community tremendously if used appropriately.
It is almost second nature for one to blame others when they are in the face of trouble or when something dreadful happens to them. But we should think twice before picking fault with the creation, or their creators, when things go wrong, especially if the creation itself is being abused.
If we breed a culture of technology-blaming and a fear of disruptive ideas, potential startup founders are going to be deterred from innovating and executing their ideas. This discourages entrepreneurship and makes the already difficult choice of launching a startup even harder to make.
Do you agree with us? If you have something you’d like to say about disruptive ideas or their effects, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s have a chat!
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