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?
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