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CityPress - - Voices -

n an econ­omy such as ours, which is char­ac­terised by un­em­ploy­ment, jobs are not only a means of mak­ing a liveli­hood. For many, sim­ply hav­ing a job can mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death. To work is to live, we of­ten say. It there­fore comes as no sur­prise that me­tered-taxi own­ers and driv­ers took to the streets this week to protest against what they per­ceive to be Uber’s “un­fair ad­van­tage” and “un­law­ful­ness”, as it does not fall within any reg­u­lated public trans­port cat­e­gory. They want it reg­u­lated or, bet­ter yet, banned.

Those in favour of Uber say leg­is­la­tors must up­date laws and reg­u­la­tions – mainly the Na­tional Land Trans­port Act of 2009 – to ac­com­mo­date this ser­vice.

The is­sue of un­em­ploy­ment and scarce eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties should re­main the pri­or­ity on gov­ern­ment’s agenda.

It must, how­ever, also be noted that it is in the in­ter­ests of gov­ern­ment and its cit­i­zens to up­date cur­rent poli­cies to ad­vance tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion. Tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion are the an­swers to many of Africa’s chal­lenges, start­ing with un­em­ploy­ment.

By its own def­i­ni­tion, Uber is a “trans­port-on­de­mand ser­vice”. Founded in 2009 in the US, the ser­vice has be­come one of the most talked about in the tech­nol­ogy sec­tor that is op­er­at­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally.

In fact, since it has be­come suc­cess­ful, many in­dus­tries con­sider the com­pany an ex­am­ple of in­no­va­tion worth em­u­lat­ing.

Uber is also what we re­fer to as a “sta­tus quo dis­rupter”. Be­fore Uber, there was noth­ing like it. Its jour­ney will be recorded as a game-changer.

Think of it as another Face­book or Twit­ter. We never saw them com­ing ei­ther. Loop that into how both com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices have changed the media and so­cial-com­men­tary land­scape, and it be­comes clear why our leg­is­la­tors need to heed the wake-up call – fast.

It is true that reg­u­la­tors aren’t likely to keep up with tech­nol­ogy. It de­vel­ops at an ex­po­nen­tial rate.

This is also not another “South African sit­u­a­tion”. It isn’t unique to us and we must not think we can own this re­sis­tance.

In­ter­na­tion­ally, Uber has faced sim­i­lar op­po­si­tion to it that has re­sulted in pro­hib­i­tive laws and poli­cies be­ing used against it.

In Spain and Ger­many, in­junc­tions were is­sued against Uber. In Delhi, In­dia, all app-based trans­port ser­vices were banned in an ef­fort to pro­tect the lo­cal taxi in­dus­try.

How­ever, in some ma­jor Amer­i­can cities such as Port­land, lo­cal author­i­ties have been able to ad­just by­laws to al­low Uber to op­er­ate.

This came af­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the par­ties and a public-par­tic­i­pa­tion process.

Now both Uber and its re­gional com­peti­tor, Lyft, can op­er­ate in Port­land, in ad­di­tion to many other places world­wide.

What does this tell us?

PHOTO: MAR­NUS HATTINGH

THE FU­TURE IS NOW The Uber app has got up the nose of many me­tered­taxi driv­ers in SA, who say it is driv­ing them out of busi­ness

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