Uber brings no innovation to Hong Kong, so why should the law be changed for its benefit?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 August, 2015, 4:29pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 August, 2015, 4:29pm


Young people who aspire to embrace innovation should focus on smart innovation rather than smart rhetoric. Many people confuse innovation with novelty, and intelligent-smart with fashionable-smart.

Innovation must yield a positive net effect to be sustainable, which means the long-term result must outweigh all the sacrifices because of the change. This is a question all businesses would ask before making an investment.

For example, if an entrepreneur was about to invest in a new factory, the long-term gains must exceed the construction and relocation expenses. The return must be attractive enough to risk their money, which would otherwise be sitting in the bank, collecting interest.

If we apply this approach to Uber, can Hong Kong identify the long-term advantage to deconstructing its taxi system, which is one of the most efficient and reasonably priced, when compared with those of other major cities?

Uber is a digital calling service platform that combines global positioning system technology and social media to simulate car-pooling.

For argument's sake, we can disregard the safety concerns of either picking up strangers or getting into a stranger's car. However, we should not have illusions about being picked up in a Mercedes-Benz from the swipe of an app. The probability of finding a private vehicle nearby willing to fight traffic during rush hour to pick us up at a reasonable price will prove to be lower than that of hailing a cab.

Simply, there are no statistics to guarantee sufficient private vehicles to satisfy those who think Uber is the answer to our taxi dilemma, or lack of limousine service.

Those in Hong Kong who can afford a car, with exorbitant fuel prices and parking fees, would not resort to being a part-time chauffeur. There will be some who would invest in used vehicles for moonlighting purposes.

If we consider that these additional vehicles will exacerbate Hong Kong's already congested traffic during rush hour, concerns of this type of market disruption may become clear.

Uber has brought only a business to Hong Kong, not innovation. Until there are other, foreign or local, innovators who can develop similar technologies to offer additional app car services, there is no ecosystem that requires the government to consider changing the laws. We are treading on thin ice if one company can bully our government into catering to its platform in the name of innovation.

One of Steve Jobs' famous line is never be afraid to say no. If it is a yes, it must be for the best.

Les Gee, Discovery Bay