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How UBER is charging change in safety with technology 



Frans Hiemstra, GM for Uber SSA & MOC Redi Tlhabi

Key highlights from Uber’s Tech for Safety Summit:

  • Uber has completed over 100 million successful face mask verifications globally 
  • The University of Johannesburg spends in excess of over R6 million per month on data costs to allow for e-learning 
  • Phishing emails are among the top causes for personal cyber-attacks in Africa 
  • More than 10 000 previously inaccessible start-ups received assistance from Africa Management Institute due to developing an online presence
  • According to A21 there was a 1000% increase in the vetting of jobs available locally to reduce the risk of human trafficking during the lockdown

Uber Tech For Safety Summit

Returning as master of ceremonies, Redi Tlhabi together with Sub Saharan Africa’s finest industry specialists, start-ups and innovators came together on 22 October for Uber’s second annual Tech for Safety summit to unpack and critically discuss how technology may be leveraged to create innovative safety solutions. 

The summit, which had an in-person element, followed all COVID-19 protocols necessary to ensure the safety of its guests, was for the first time available virtually.

Thousands of individuals now had access to the summit, being able to partake live and engage with the panels and speakers. 

Catalysing constructive conversation 

As the pandemic continues to unravel at both corporate and citizen safety, each summit panel provided a platform for critical conversation around the threats towards employment, health, travel, business and personal safety. 

Given Africa’s growing infrastructure and developing road network, the first panel spoke through how technology has enhanced safer more affordable travel. Key insights uncovered include the importance of using data to identify key insights into what puts commuters at risk, especially the youth who are most vulnerable to vehicle accidents. 

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Learning to adjust to the new normal requires everyday technology to become a way of life. The summit’s second panel unpacked the challenges and opportunities that come with this new normal. UJ’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Tshilidzi Marsala says that the university spends in access of R6 million per month on just data to ensure students remain connected, however Gretchen Wilson-Prangley (Co-founder and CEO of Play Africa) emphasized how this allowed for immediate collaborative learning that connected students irrespective of distance. 

The panel further explained how a lack of basic care when active online allowed for phishing emails to be among the top courses for cyber-attacks, while having an online presence helped Africa Management Institute assist more than 10 000 start-ups who were previously inaccessible. 

Regarding community and personal safety, A21 reported a 1000% increase in vetting jobs available locally to reduce the risk of human trafficking and that feeling safe alone was consistently infringed on according to Safer Spaces.

Community surveillance, facial recognition and connecting local biometrics to a nationwide ID database were among tech-driven solutions that can help create a safer society, according to Nigeria’s Sihle Owoka of Smile Identity. 

Focused on start-ups 

A major focus for the summit this year was to empower start-ups across Africa. Venture capitalist, Michael Jordaan delivered the keynote address highlighting how passion, need fulfillment and skill are the mandatory requirements for a successful start-up.

Start small and scale suitably are among his best advice, telling the audience that research is essential for relevance and brand longevity. 

This year, the Pitching Den returned providing start-ups the opportunity to pitch their ‘Tech for Safety’ ideas to a panel of accomplished judges and potential investors. Driven by Innovate Durban, the winner Keletso Lekwakwe creator of Password Kid, a South African start-up, wins a 1 year fully-immersive support programme with Innovate Durban. 

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Commitment to change 

The well-being of its users continues to be a top priority for Uber, including road, health and interpersonal safety. The app which offers over 20 enhanced safety features, having Uber’s Head of Product Management, Akankshu Dhawan announce at the summit that the app had completed over 100 million successful face mask verifications during the pandemic globally. 

This is what the General Manager of Uber Sub Saharan Africa, Frans Hiemstra, has to say: “We’ve set out to create a platform that encourages engagement and feedback, to expand on our conversation around how technology and infrastructure may collaborate to create safer communities across Africa”.

A continent on the nexus of its greatest technology evolution, deserves a platform worthy of its potential. Uber’s Tech for Safety Summit, provides just this, to empower, enrich and further commit to the locals of Africa. 

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