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To address the issues surrounding the safety of users of e-hailing applications such as Uber, Uber held a safety roundtable discussion on the 23rd of March, with Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and safety experts to tackle issues head-on and to reiterate its commitment to the topic.

According to Kagiso Khaole, Head of Mobility Operations for Sub-Saharan Africa at Uber – and moderator of the event, “the safety roundtable panel discussion is symbolic of Uber’s commitment to safety and is part of paving the way for what the future safety standard should be., Uber designs with the user at heart, considering the user experience before, during and after the trip – all while considering privacy.” 

Panellists discussed how e-hailing platforms and other stakeholders can win at creating a safer e-hailing transport ecosystem. Speaking at the roundtable, Lisa Vetten, researcher and project consultant for GBV at the University of Johannesburg reiterated the importance of considering transport design and its impact on safety. Ms. Vetten went on to note that this was especially true as GBV police reports in South Africa have been described as worrying but incomplete, both because of the problems with data collection and because victims often do not report abuse. Ms Vetten noted that People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa),a collaborative research project featuring the Medical Research Council, (MRC) the SAPS, the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), “In South Africa, we see the lack of affordable and safe transport featuring quite prominently in the incidents of reported rape, part of that is because a lot of women don’t have access to transport and they are attacked while walking, so thinking about how we design safe transport in both the public and private sector is very important and could significantly reduce the number of incidents.”

Jenna Green, Marketing and Adoption Manager at AURA acknowledged that law enforcement in South Africa was stretched and needed support, and as such mobilising the private security sector was essential in finding a holistic solution in reducing cases. “The rise in gender-based violence in South Africa has presented a need to create an accessible platform that enables millions of South Africans to access effective and affordable emergency response services. AURA democratises access to these services. There is a need to rally the private security sector to enable them to respond to incidents – helping to create that supportive ecosystem where the public sector is stretched.”

Also in attendance was Gauteng Community Safety’s Themba Mlotshwa who praised Uber for organising the discussion and the e-hailing industry as a whole for providing alternative transport solutions.  He was joined by Thokozani Jacob Masilela, Chairperson of Gauteng Provincial Community Policing Board, who encouraged collaboration between e-hailing services such as Uber and community policing forums. “We have a community patrollers programme that is used as a force multiplier for law enforcement. This kind of collaboration and relationship can also assist e-hailing platforms by remaining the eyes and ears on the ground. But also, we have our community in blue and volunteers that are deployed in the community daily. These are resources that e-hailing services could tap into,” he added.

Applauding Uber for the support it gave to victims of domestic violence during the height of Covid-19 restrictions – offering over 3000 women free rides to shelters across the country – Vetten encouraged Uber to continue to play this kind of role beyond just the traditional forms of e-hailing. 

According to Khaole, this is the first of many such sessions that Uber will be hosting and felt it befitting to kick-off with safety because it’s a very important part of the business and relevant to have. DM/MC


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