Access Platforms

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By Aurélien Acquier, Thibault Daudigeos, and Jonatan Pinkse:

"A first set of dual-core initiatives – Access platforms – give access to underutilized resources, or services, through digital platforms. Famous sharing economy companies such as Airbnb and Blablacar that connect users with owners of dwellings and cars, respectively, belong to this category. They optimize the usage of durable goods and allow greater access to expensive goods, and thus help to fulfil the environmental and social promise of the access economy (Eckhardt and Bardhi, 2016). In addition, they benefit from the advantages of the platform economy (Srineck, 2016). They drastically reduce the risk of moral hazard by leveraging the monitoring properties of digital platforms such as digital tracking, peer-evaluations, and insurance contracts. Transaction costs are reduced considerably by facilitating connections between supply and demand (Williamson, 2000). If access platforms adopt a capitalistic governance scheme, they can aim for high scalability on a global scale in the short run.

However, access platforms are not entirely without critique. By adopting platform logics, they suffer from the tensions that come with such logics. The major critique is the unbalanced contribution to the wellbeing of all stakeholders involved and thus a lack of consideration for the community at large (Dreyer et al., in this issue). Access platforms suffer from the adverse effects of high scalability and a skewed focus on benefits for shareholders and users to the detriment of others. In addition, the conjunction of scalability and access gives rise to new tensions or amplify those related to the access and/or platform economy. The broad and cheap access offered could worsen the ‘rebound effects’ (Demailly and Novel, 2014) and stimulate even more indulgent consumption leading to uncertain environmental benefits (Parguel et al., in this issue). The social and economic promises of greater access to resources might thus run counter to the environmental promise of greater resource efficiency." (