I was driven by a lady in my last Uber trip during this past weekend, and this was the first time since I started using this convenient service in January of this year.
The significance of the experience has 2 aspects to it:
- As South Africans will relate, August is Women’s Month. Thus, the timing of the Uber coincidence could not have been better for me.
- My country has an unfortunately appalling record when it comes violence against women. Thus, their safety in sectors such as the private taxi industry where mainly men use this service is a big concern. Uber could just be the answer – at least partly – to protecting women who want to enter this industry as entrepreneurs and employees.
A brief background about August
This month has been identified as a women’s month in South Africa, and the objective is for all to put a spotlight on women’s plight to be protected from the current high levels of violence; and to be treated equal in society and in business.
My conversational ride with the Uber lady
I have made it my business to create conversations with all drivers during my Uber trips. Generally, they are open to chatting and sharing information enthusiastically; including how to register one’s car and legal requirements, how much they make per week, what portion Uber keeps, how often they receive their takings, working conditions, etc.
As usual, I got a conversation going with the Uber lady, and her name was Portia. She willingly shared information with me about how long she has been on Uber (it’s been 11 months), that she is her own boss, that she was working at one of government agencies before then, that the number of ladies who drive Uber taxis in Johannesburg is below 5%, and that business has not been bad. I then asked why she had not been in the private taxi industry before Uber, and she cited safety as the’ reason.
How is Uber contributing to safety of women drivers
[dropcaps style=” background_color=’#FF0000 ‘ underline_height=” underline_color=”]F[/dropcaps]IRST, users of Uber are not faceless individuals in the main. Opening an account with this serviceentails furnishing profile details that can be used to track you down.
[dropcaps style=” background_color=’#FF0000′ underline_height=” underline_color=”]S[/dropcaps]ECOND, traveling history of regular users is trackable. In addition, if the service used to travel from or to home as part of regular trips, then voila!
[dropcaps style=” background_color=’#FF0000′ underline_height=” underline_color=”]T[/dropcaps]HIRD, while this rule can be broken, Uber cars are not requested by driver name. Thus, users will only know the gender of their driver upon allocation of the nearest car to the user.
[dropcaps style=” background_color=’#FF0000’ underline_height=” underline_color=”]F[/dropcaps]OURTH, Uber cars are tracked real-time on Google maps, and users know this. While this can also be circumvented by throwing the tracking device – the connected smartphone – out of the window, identifying the user should take care of an attempt to conceal the source of the misdemeanour.
Message to all South Africans
My view, based on my recent encounter with Portia – the Uber lady, is that all South African men who care about protection of our ladies and their economic emancipation must embrace Uber for the positive role this technology is playing in the private taxi industry.