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Digital Disruption

As part of our Badge Challenge earlier in the year, we gave a Community member the opportunity to submit a post and have it featured across the CHOICE network, including in the CHOICE magazine.

Challenge winner @phb submitted the below on Digital Disruption, read it below and be sure to leave a comment!

Digital Disruption

What is digital disruption?

While the term digital disruption is a reasonably newly coined word, to a consumer it has been around for at least 25 years, when the internet became more mainstream. In reality, it has been around a lot longer than that, and possibly since computer systems or new efficiency technologies were adopted by large institutions (such as government and the financial sector) for the management of data and its processing.

So what is digital disruption? defines digital disruption as “ the change that occurs when new digital technologies and business models affect the value proposition of existing goods and services ”. In simple terms it means there is an expectation that adoption of digital disruption will lower the price consumers pay for traditional goods and services.

Is it all good?

As a consumer, I initially thought…wow, digital disruption sounds wonderful and anything that delivers the same goods and services cheaper is a great thing to embrace.

Overtime I have realised that the initial media and marketing hype associated with digital disruption have have been overheated. With a background of thinking outside the status quo and challenging new concepts and ideas, I quickly discovered that there are many negatives, along with the positives, associated with digital disruption. These impacts are often overlooked on the technologies adoption or result from its adoption.

Internet and Voip

Take high speed internet and VOIP (voice over internet phone). While such technologies allow for very cheap (almost zero cost) phone calls, the same technologies can also be exploited by criminals to prey on the less fortunate with incredible ‘promises’, to encourage them to part with their hard earned cash. While I have embraced the internet age, one of the negatives which I find highly repugnant is the access scammers, con artists and spammers now have in my life. And how it disrupts my own amenity and enjoyment of the technology.

Pre-internet and pre-VOIP, one would receive unsolicited marketing material (e.g. Reader’s Digest) or chain letters in the post. Postage was relatively expensive and outside the affordability of most scammers/con artists. One only knew of scammer or con artists through direct face to face contact or reading the newspaper.

How times have changed and now they can easily enter our lives through cold calls or through scam/scam emails. Very cheap/free foreign VOIP calls which often appear to be an Australian caller, are the main tools used by scammers.

It appears the government/regulators and technology industry is lost in relation to how to deal with these new incursions into our lives. Focus seems to be more about awareness and reporting/recording rather than solving the problem. I do look forward to the day that there is new digital disruption technologies which correct the impacts of the existing digital disruption (internet and VOIP).

Private Taxi Industry

Another example is ride sharing industry or what I prefer to call the private taxi industry. It is incredible that is one takes a taxi to the city it costs in the order or $40, while a private taxi driver will do the same trip for almost half the price. While this terrific saving to consumers like me, do all those in the supply chain benefit from the $15 saving? Unfortunately no.

If we ignore the decimation of the highly regulated taxi industry, the private drivers also lose out. The price structuring for these private taxis are based on ride sharing, that being where one make a pre-planned trip (say to the airport), one matches up with someone else also wanting to go the same destination at the same time. One picks up this passenger who through the billing system contributes to the running costs of the vehicle travelling to the destination.

This was what was sold to differentiate ride sharing from a (private) taxi. Has this happened? No. Drivers tout for paying passengers through the digital platforms and make special trips to take the passengers to their requested destination (just like a traditional taxi). Hence why they are private taxis.

Most private taxi drivers work long hours with payment set not through regulation, but a multinational companies whose interest is to maximise patronage and profits without considering the needs or interests of the drivers. Do I take private taxis…no…and the reason I struggle to support an industry based on false pretenses and where drivers invariably will earn below the minimum Australian wage (or in many cases, nothing). If the private taxis became ride sharing, by its true meaning, then I would more likely to endorse this digital disruption. Until this occur, I am happy to stick to traditional forms of transport.

Accommodation platforms

There are many of these short term accommodation platforms available in Australia and worldwide, from hotel type search engines, AirBnB/Stayz to those around house-sitting/house sway. Unfortunately, like every other form of digital disruption, these have created unintended consequences such as reduced the supply of affordable long term rental accommodation to locals.

Some of short term private accommodation platforms were originally developed to allow one to rent out a bedroom or ones own house for a short time say when on holidays, to make a little extra income. Today and due to their market creep, these same platforms market vacant houses for short and long term accommodation and compete directly with the traditional real estate rental market and hotel/motel/B&B type accommodation providers.

Do we use them…yes…we use one type of these platform regularly. These being the private listing accommodation ones like AirBnB and Stayz. We use these mainly because other options (such as the traditional real estate short term holiday lets) don’t really exist any more pushing one to use alternative methods. Also with a small family, it is often difficult to find adequate hotel/motel/B&B accommodation which suits our needs (larger apartment style which has kitchen, laundry etc).

We have used AirBnB in many countries and find it useful, efficient but not necessarily the cheapest form of accommodation available. We are also about to use it for the first time in Australia, where in the past we have only used Stayz. We have been happy with these platforms as we have been able to better find accommodation which meets our current needs. We also don’t solely used these platforms as we also compare their options with traditional motel/hotel style accommodation available in the same locality. When we travel, it is usually a fusion of platform and traditional direct contact style booking. We have also found that direct booking often we seem to have better rooms, have breakfast included in the room rates and/or cheaper room rates.

While I search using hotel type booking platforms, I don’t take notice of their marketing hype , namely being the cheapest price. In reality one can get far cheaper rates by directly contacting other unlisted accommodation providers, or the same listed accommodation. Often discounts or cheaper rates are given by direct contact as the provider does not have to pay the substantial advertising fees/booking commissions to these platform. It is also worth noting that many of the terms and conditions of these same platforms restrict the prices a accommodation provider can display on their website, it has to be consistent with the platform pricing so as as many bookings as possible occur through the platforms. I wonder if this is uncompetitive trading practices to the detriment of the consumer? On a side note, doesn’t this go against the ethos of digital disruption by providing the same product or service cheaper?

It is worth noting that these booking platforms don’t have links to the accommodation provider websites or their contact information (until after booking is confirmed)…this is so one doesn’t side step the booking platforms and deal directly with the accommodation providers. These however can readily be found through internet searches or though business listing type websites (local government, local tourist associations etc). It does pay to contact an accommodation provider directly.

Is it all bad?

My view on digital disruption is far more cautious than my first reaction over a decade ago. I am now not so sure it is necessarily a revolution in the best interests of a consumer like me as it has pitfalls which should be fully understood before adopting. The premise that products and services will be cheaper than traditional forms of supply hasn’t eventuated in all cases, and there are many intended consequences of this disruption to the consumer or those involved in the product or service being provided.

As a consumer that has the right to make my own choices, I will continue to investigate, or maybe better to say interrogate, new emerging forms of digital disruption and determine if it is in my interests for its adoption. I will weigh up what it means to me as well as those involved in the supply chain and process.

Like the examples above, I may have no choice in its adoption (like internet/VOIP), but where possible, chose to use when it is the better option for the supply of the product and service (like some of the accommodation platforms). Others I will avoid unless the technologies and business models change so that the disruptions does not disadvantage me or other involved (such as the private taxi industry).


While I don’t have direct experience of this, “I have heard that” two other negative effects are:

  • Turning a residential apartment building into what is effectively a hotel has “disruptive” effects on the amenity of the permanent residents (and similarly for other types of buildings).
  • Exacerbating the existing problem of absentee landlords (for example in strata scheme operation).

Great Topic, thanks @phb. :wink:

Is digital disruption best described by what sounds more like a marketing slogan than a dictionary definition?

The following AFR article offers an alternate post disruption view point, and summary of what is happening?

“It’s when someone comes in and produces something that is of more value, and superior, to your end customer, because they understand the customer better.”

:thinking: This appears as a more targeted proposition, more focused on competition and gaining market share?

Digital tech delivers in many ways.

  • Understanding the customer better, can be presented as either a positive or negative for the customer. How many customers purchase goods and services they don’t need?

  • Digital tech can facilitate being first in the quest to make the sale or reach customers who would not consider your product otherwise?

  • There is a marketing component enabled through digital services, as well as a value proposition.

  • And there are is also the creation of new forms of goods and services to consider.

It appears convenient to label change as a marketable commodity due to digital technology. As an alternate reality it deflects our focus from a more accurate observation. The reprogramming of the consumer to becoming more dependent on the services of others. Technology simply enables delivery to a wide customer base while implementing tight centralised ownership of the product?

I also see the outcome of lower price is not so clear or assured. Some changes may have reduced consumer costs, while others such as aggregation style business, Eg Flight Centre, Agoda, Compare the Market, may be costing more. The motivation of enterprises benefiting from the disruption remains growth and profit, only now achieving this on a global scale is so much easier.

The Choice Community discussions reflect some of the consequences. The possible need to regulate Google and Facebook, the risks of lack of security and government privacy exemptions for centralised data collection, and the ‘Australia Tax’ where global enterprise actively discriminates on price or access of Aussies to products distributed through digitally controlled media.


Overall a nice summary of the present situation. I think we need to look at more than the changes that have happened and consider the future because there are going to be many more, the problems that have been thrown up so far are just the start.

One question that we should address is whether the problems found so far are solely because of the specific segment of our society that has been disrupted, information flow, or if they are they due to the pace of change.

Another thing to consider is if the problems are inevitable given the size and speed of changes taking place, or if they are a result of mismanagement - or no management at all.

In my opinion the pace of change is a major factor in current difficulties. We have seen in every case the speed of change has been limited firstly by the technology itself, secondly by the availability of funding and the speed of role-out while control by government or society has run a distant third.

Take the case of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). This medium for phone carriage has been around for a while but has only become widespread once the NBN was rolled out. It is a benefit to the consumer in reducing communication costs and in some areas (wires are not well maintained outside cities) increasing reliability. Given the recent history of email being turned to industrial scale crime and mischief, because of the very low marginal cost of sending millions of messages, it was hardly a surprise that VOIP would be used for the same purpose. But this seems to be a surprise to authorities.

The taxi industry in this country was always vulnerable to disruption because it was a neatly controlled market where the level of service and cost to the consumer were determined by the limit placed on the number of taxi plates and price control.

Owning plates was a license to print money, some people did not invest their life savings in property or the stock market but bought taxi plates to support them in retirement. They are rather grumpy right now because having created this planned market governments have suddenly opened it up to competition. This crash and bang was precipitated by technology but the change was thoroughly mismanaged by government. The practice was so entrenched for so long that we only remembered that the consumer was being ripped off when it was opened up to competition and it doesn’t seem very fair to make the investors wear all the cost of the correction even if they were technically rent seekers. The dust hasn’t settled yet but one feature is common to the taxi and the uber model, the driver never makes much out of it.

The mismanagement of the NBN transition would fill a book but let us just say that it is a prime example of politicians mistaking their need for power and playing games for the country’s need, in this case for a 21st century communication system.

We have all seen how social media has altered the way that politics is conducted. As I said in the thread on regulating social media the situation is a case of tech outrunning law and society. We have seen this happening for years now, it didn’t just happen last month. Isn’t it about time our elected representatives took some action to defend the body politic from outside actors and internal mischief?

As phb says many of the current results are due to unintended consequences. In defence of government you can hardly hold back the tech while waiting for the law and society to understand it and catch up with the consequences. Also the pace of change has been accelerating.

But we don’t see much action even when there is a clear and present danger. Is this because we have a particularly incompetent bunch in Canberra (I don’t mean any specific party I mean all of them) or is the biggest unintended consequence of all that the way government has been conducted during the last century is inadequate for the present situation?


Government itself has not yet been digitally disrupted but there are those who advocate for that to occur. :slight_smile:


I suggest the Government has absolutely been digitally disrupted. Having had to use a Government funding portal for years, the same frustrations seen to continue and are now surfacing with the NDIS. Huge time wasters costing service quality. And what about the Centrelink “robo-debt” debacle? We can only imagine what has been buried out of sight.


I meant … the actual government. Scrap the system of representative democracy. Sack all the MPs. Replace with direct democracy, which has been made somewhat more practical by computer and telecommunications technology.

For example:!_Immigration_Action!_Accountable_Politicians! (formerly Senator Online)


We have noticed that there is an increasing number of foreign jurisdictions that now require AirBnB and other private short term accommodation to be licensed and regulated where the principle purpose of the accommodation is a business/making money. There is also a move to have mandatory reporting of income generated to prevent tax avoidance and possibly to also allow easier enforcement of the new requirements (namely identifying accommodation locations run for income which require licencing).

Our visit to Paris last year we used licensed accommodation as the changes had been announced and we didn’t want to use accommodation which potentially couldn’t be licensed and meet the necessary local permit requirements. Paris has requirements in additional to those announced by the French government.

Such has also been discussed by local and state government in Australia and there have been some regulations such as that introduced in NSW (New short-term holiday letting regulations), however, I beleive that the effectiveness of these regulations will be limited…especially when one can rent out accommodation where a host is not present for around 1/2 of the year. Maybe some of the Australian government should consider that say adopted by Paris where the “Paris regulations allow a homeowner to rent out their permanent residence while they are away on vacation or on occasion for short periods during the year, without any special permit. If the property is not the owner’s permanent residence, the rental period cannot be less than one year (or 9 months if the tenant is a student) unless the owner obtains an authorization from City Hall for permission to do short-term or seasonal rentals.

Such regulation is unlikely to prevent owners using properties for short term accommodation, but allow government to better manage the problems that you have highlighted…and also ensure that the provided accommodation is safe and suitable for prospective guests.


I love the suggestion, in particular as I expect everyone else is in 100% in agreement with my version of the world, and those that are not will forever more need to comply! (I’m not really that lacking in empathy or understanding, truely, trust me?)

The change suggested and enabled through technology, assumes that further chaotic disruption does not follow due to manipulation of the online environment.

The online environment is not without risk of corruption, hacking, or bias due to loud voices and bots.
Would handing policy of legislative responses more directly to the greater public, also require assurances that minorities cannot hijack the debate or agenda? Many of us now disregard the traditional press and hang off Facebook, Twitter and other online tools.

It is difficult enough for democracy to rely on what is offered up during election campaigns as being honest and truthful. In fact there is no legal test of honesty required, only a test of public opinion. Some might suggest alternately a test of ignorance.

Is our society sufficiently mature and responsible, and immune from narrow minded shouting to make such a step. All too often what appears to be a majority public opinion is found wanting at the post. We only need to look to Brexit to see how badly it might go wrong, how risky narrow margins of approval based on only needing 50% support might be, and how decisive outcomes may become where a minority seeks to shout loudest when the result is less than to their preference.

I only need to look to some of our near friends to feel the lingering angst arising from recent national legislated outcomes counter to their belief systems. Currently we blame mostly our politicians for such things. It may be the lesser of two evils for the present to keep the buffer rather than pit neighbour against neighbour more directly.

The easiest part to implement would seem to be online voting. First past the post or optional preferential, and do Tasmanian’s get a bigger vote to even up their small population. Fortunately 60% of Australian’s live in NSW and Vic, or more than 50% live in greater Syd, Melb, & Bris. One guess where all the money will be spent! I think we still need some form of representation for the foreseeable future. Disruption with out the technology, although a form of technology enabled feedback could be a way of getting key and reliable supportive decisions up similar to the recent plebiscite?

That depends. If the property is purely an investment and negatively geared then there is no tax being avoided and in fact it is to the benefit of the ATO if there is no reporting (and hence clearly there will be no need to “force” the owner to declare the income). If the property is basically not an investment and earns a modest amount of occasional income and nothing is reported then that could be to the benefit of the ATO because if the income has to be declared then an apportionment of the expenses can be declared and again there may be no benefit to the ATO (and a cost to everyone in all the paperwork).

So that there is no confusion about my position … I am not arguing for or advocating for such a change. I just wanted to give it as a more radical example of digital disruption and illustrate that there are people and groups who are advocating for such a change.

For sure. This is one of the biggest problems I have with current suggestions and yet it does not seem to be addressed at all by the proponents. This would be the ultimate example of foreign interference. Ostensibly we would be more democratic than ever but in reality policy is being determined and manipulated from Beijing, for example.

IT security would have to improve about 1000% before I would be happy about either normal (representative) elections being voted on at home from your computer or anything similar with direct democracy.

Interestingly, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) is capable of smashing the scam calls. Most of them are apparently coming from just one town in India. Search Youtube for something like “scamming the scammers” and you will see the many ways that this can be done.

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I can’t find anything on this can you give a link please?


How some lives get digitally disrupted:


Ending up homeless could be seen as a bit disruptive: