How to get-toilet-paper.com? Provision of Information as a Public Good
27 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2021
Date Written: May 11, 2021
In this paper, we describe the implementation of an information-sharing platform, got-toilet-paper.com. We create this web page in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help the Pittsburgh, PA community share information about congestion and product shortages in supermarkets. We show that the public good problem of the platform makes it difficult for the platform to operate. In particular, there is a sizable demand for the information, but supply satisfies only a small fraction of demand. We provide a theoretical model and show that the first best outcomes cannot be obtained in a free market and the best symmetric equilibrium outcome decreases as the number of participants increases. Also, the best symmetric equilibrium has two problems, cost inefficiency and positive probability of termination. We discuss two potential solutions. The first is a uniform random sharing mechanism, which implies randomly selecting one person every period who will be responsible for information sharing. It is ex-post individually rational but hard to implement. The second solution is the one that we began implementing. It implies selecting a person at the beginning and make her responsible to share information every period while reimbursing her cost. We discuss the reasons for high demand and low supply both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Keywords: get-toilet-paper.com, public good provision, crowdsourcing, information aggregation
JEL Classification: H4, D4, D8
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation