National E-Markets

Downing Street, according to the Guardian, is considering the creation of an online marketplace, a concept apparently known as National E-Markets. I had not come across this concept before just now but a little reading around the subject is making me think it might not be a bad idea.

Under the model being considered, e-markets would expand into sectors as diverse as tuition, vehicle hire, babysitting, overnight accommodation and office rentals. It would use a specialised search engine to put on screen any list of services required, grading them by past reliability, location and price. It would also allow those offering services to move up grades as they accumulated satisfied customers.
By instigating a national online marketplace, government would be providing (regulating, not controlling) the infrastructure, much like it does the road network, to enable much of the cash economy to come in from the cold. In return, the government sponsored infrastructure would provide recourse and reliability to sectors often plagued by a lack of formal trading arrangements and the security they provide. Babysitting, tuition, bicycle hire or lawnmowing - any service in fact - would be available with reputation ranking allowing consumers to be discerning in the service they buy, and sellers with time and a talent will find a ready marketplace for their efforts, they good ones will prosper the less good, by the power of market forces, will disappear.

Wingham Rowan, a key proponent of the Guaranteed Electronic Market, has written two books on the subject, Net Benefit: Guaranteed Electronic Markets - The Ultimate Potential of Online Trade [Buy UK | US] and Guaranteed electronic markets - The backbone of a twenty first century economy? [Buy UK | US], the latter being also available to read online at Demos.

Obviously this is an idea which has been floating around for a while. Why does eBay not provide for this services rather than goods based market? Is the government really required? If so, could there be multiple agencies interfacing with the government's 'regulation servers' to allow free competition in the arena of bringing together buyer and seller? Very interesting ideas, will this be New Labour's next big idea and could it be, as Wingham Rowan suggests, "launched as early as next year"?

Posted by Paul in UK Politics at August 23, 2004 12:11 PM | 0 Comments