Friday, 18 November 2016

Uber and local government collaborating to give elderly rural residents a ride

There is the 'disruptive' economy:
Futures Forum: Creating/destroying jobs >>> Creative Destruction and Artificial Intelligence
Futures Forum: The promises of technological innovation >>> "The Fourth Industrial Revolution" and the future of work

And there is the 'sharing' economy:
Futures Forum: The sharing economy >>> “This on-demand, or so-called gig, economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation. But it is also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

And there is Uber:
Futures Forum: Is Uber really part of the 'sharing economy'? >>> "The whole point of a genuine p2p and sharing economy is empowerment for those directly participating in it."

It really does look very 'innovative' - as the latest from Forbes tells us:

How Uber, Airbnb And Etsy Turned 1,000 Customers Into 1 Million

NOV 16, 2016 

Few companies in the past few years have rocketed to success faster than Uber, Airbnb and Etsy, which together have transformed the way we hail a cab, plan a vacation, and shop for handmade gifts, respectively. In a previous Harvard Business School Working Knowledge article, “How Uber, Airbnb, and Etsy Attracted Their First 1,000 Customers,” we explored how these two-sided platforms got their start and attracted a significant number of early adopters based on a Harvard Business School case that professor Teixeira wrote with Morgan Brown.

How Uber, Airbnb And Etsy Turned 1,000 Customers Into 1 Million

However, in the UK - as elsewhere - there is a backlash happening:
Uber loses right to classify UK drivers as self-employed | Technology | The Guardian
Uber ruling ‘an enormous decision’ says employment lawyer – video | Technology | The Guardian

The New Economics Foundation looked at the issues last month:


10 OCTOBER, 2016 | CAMPIGNS Alice Martin

Our digital economy is on track to become less equal, less democratic and even more monopolistic than what came before.

We are voluntarily handing our data, the raw material of the digital age, to a handful of increasingly dominant platforms – from Google to Facebook.

We’re trading our privacy at bargain prices, whilst platform employers like Uber and Deliveroo drive down working standards and pay across an increasingly fragmented labour market. Automation offers millions a shorter working week; instead we’re dealt a hand of low wages and precarity.

Old democratic institutions have never looked so powerless. What can be done?

We’re starting work with innovators, businesses and trade unions to assert more control in this emerging economy.

The huge economic rewards are currently enjoyed by a handful of tech giants. It’s time we stood together to hold them to account and secure a share in this future.

We’re working together with drivers and industry experts to develop a new taxi app which will be owned and controlled by the drivers – the returns from which will keep circulating in our economy.

Putting drivers at the wheel of Uber – New Economics Foundation

On the other hand, perhaps the Uber model offers some innovative, disruptive promise for communities:
Uber’s Challenge…Replacing Rental Cars - Barron's

Uber targets elderly passengers in rural Japan

Danielle Demetriou, tokyo 12 NOVEMBER 2016 • 

Yaeko Tanaka – along with an estimated 40 million other people around the world – doesn’t hesitate to use the ride sharing company Uber when she needs to get around. Yet Ms Tanaka clearly defies customer stereotypes. She is not a smartphone-owning young professional living in a city: she is a 90-year-old pensioner based in a remote corner of rural Japan.

“I used to take the bus to go to hospital,” Ms Tanaka, who lives in far-flung Tangocho, a tiny coastal town overlooking the Sea of Japan around three hours by bus from Kyoto, told the Telegraph. But it was hard for me to walk to the bus stop due to my weak legs. However, since I started using this service, I can go directly from my doorstep to the hospital entrance with ease. I just call up a nearby friend who can request a ride with Uber, which is really easy to use.”

Ms Tanaka is representative of an increasingly important demographic for Uber Technologies Inc, the fast-growing San Francisco-based start-up, which is pioneering an unusual expansion approach in Japan. For instead of focusing on Japan’s major cities – the most common strategy in many other countries - Uber is instead targeting elderly Japanese living in the nation’s most remote rural locations.

Key to this approach is the fact that Japan is home to one of the world’s fastest ageing populations, with countless areas populated by shrinking ageing communities which are off the public transport grid.

At the same time, Uber’s expansion in cities such as Tokyo has been limited by strict regulations which limit ride-sharing services to locations too small to support public transport. Only licensed black car or taxi drivers are permitted to ferry passengers, resulting in operations in Tokyo that are surprisingly small compared to cities such as London – despite the Japanese capital being home to the world’s largest taxi cab market.

Not a company to be deterred, earlier this year, Uber quietly launched a pioneering ride-sharing scheme in two small rural areas in Japan – Tangocho in the Kyotango region and Nakatonbetsu, a town on the northernmost island Hokkaido.

As a result, these towns – two small dots on the map – are now the only places in Japan where Uber’s app can be used to hail a ride by a part-time driver.

The new scheme was created in collaboration with local government officials and enables elderly riders who do not own a smartphone to simply phone Uber to summon a ride when they need to get around.

Masami Takahashi, the president of Uber Japan, told the Telegraph: “Many areas of rural Japan are underserved by public transport networks. This can be especially problematic for senior citizens, something that the government itself has recognised.

“Our technology has been welcomed by authorities in Kyotango and Nakatonbetsu as a way to help seniors get from A to B safely and reliably, as well as creating a sustainable transportation option. With our technology, we can help move seniors and be part of the solution to one of the major challenges facing the country.”

With “consistent” demand for rides in the first two pilot schemes, Uber is hoping to replicate these services in a network spanning rural Japan and is currently in discussions with dozens of local government authorities.

“This is fairly unique for Uber,” Mr Takahashi admitted. “But at heart, we are in the business of moving people around - wherever they are. The response so far has been very encouraging.”

Ms Tanaka is one of countless pensioners likely to be thankful for Uber’s rural expansion in Tangocho, a town of 5,914 residents, where the average age of Uber passengers is believed to be well over 70.

Setsuko Sakato, 62, who is working as a driver, described his hopes that the scheme would “revitalise” the town, which once thrived by supplying fabric to Kyoto’s kimono makers but has suffering from a rapidly declining population in recent years – a problem replicated across rural Japan.

“I feel happy if the rider shows appreciation of our service,” he told the Telegraph. “I’m hoping to have more riders, which will give me more energy and purpose to the project. And I’d like to see more smiles from riders. That is what motivates me to drive every day.”

Uber  targets elderly passengers in rural Japan - Telegraph

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