Uber held its first Tech for Safety Summit on August 16, 2019, led by Redi Tlhabi, master of ceremonies, together with the country’s most prominent leaders, corporates, start-ups and innovators who came together to explore South Africa’s safety challenges and how technology can be used to build safer communities now and in the future.
The one-day event held in Hyde Park Johannesburg had over 230 participants from across the country and was organised around three main themes: tech for community safety, tech for road safety and tech for start-up safety.
Safety and Innovation – Leveraging new technologies
In his speech to officially open the conference, Nduduzo Nyanda, Uber’s Country Manager for South Africa highlighted how the country’s unique safety challenges have ensured that the company constantly explore and build new products to enhance the safety of riders and drivers using the Uber app. While commenting on the importance of the day’s event, “It is platforms like these that will ensure we ignite the conversations needed, to identify future actions that can be developed into solutions to advance personal safety in South African cities.”
Throughout the day, examples were discussed of how innovative start-ups, governments and businesses are employing the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technology to help make citizens safer. “The 4IR is here to stay and educating locals on how to become connected and use the technology available is a priority. We need to learn, explore, experience and help create a dialogue that enables and encourages all in South Africa to not fear the 4IR, but embrace it,” explains Honorable Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies in her keynote address.
She added, “Uber has significantly changed the technology game and has created the term ‘Ubernise’ which many brands are using to become more digitally-led.”
Commitment plus technology lead to action and positive impact
The Summit featured three panel discussions around the main themes and included top speakers such as Luke Kannemeyer, Head of growth for SweepSouth, Microsoft’s Area Solution Architect: Middle East and Africa, Mitesh Chotu, Facebook’s Public Policy Lead for Southern Africa, Emilar Gandhi, Ilan Ossin, Head of Telematics for Discovery Insure, Aura Founder and Director, Warren Myers and Ntombohlanga (Hlanga) Mqushulu from the Soul City Institute for Social Justice, a non-profit organisation.
Topics addressed during the panels, brought the most pressing issues facing the country to the fore, including; safety for women, personal safety and commuter safety which contributed to the much needed safety conversation while equipping guests with the thinking and knowledge needed to use current and new technology to help create a safer future for all South Africans
During the Summit, Uber’s Global Senior Director of Product, Sachin Kansal, emphasised why safety at Uber is always a priority and highlighted the key safety features introduced since launch. “With a global footprint and billions of trips, safety is a necessity and must always, like technology, develop.”
The Summit also included a fireside chat between Alon Lits, Uber Sub-Saharan Africa General Manager and Country Duty founder, Tumi Sole, exploring how tech can leverage social media for safer communities, while concluding with a student component where the winners of Uber’s Hackathon presented their technology solution, R’Vaye, to enhance personal safety.
Captivating guests one note at a time
Guests were entertained by the amazing Ntobeko Menzi Mngoma, a self-taught opera singer and Uber driver-partner who was propelled into stardom earlier this year, when a video of him serenading one of his Uber riders with an Opera classic went viral on social media. Since then, Menzi’s story has captivated thousands of South Africans who have been inspired by his story and his quest to live out his dreams.
Uber’s Lits concludes, “We believe that our diverse and innovative group of speakers and panellists provided in-depth insights, as well as actionable tools for using technology for safety. The summit was not meant to be a single event, but a starting point for the work that must be done to alleviate the safety challenges we all face.”