File photo : Wesley Diphoko
This month marked a deeply sad episode in the #UberWar (battle between taxi cabs and Uber drivers). Lindelani Mashau was caught up in a fiery inferno when a petrol bomb was thrown at his Uber-registered vehicle. He died on July 17.

Mashau was sitting inside the car outside Loftus Versfeld when he was attacked, with a petrol bomb thrown at his car on the weekend of June 10. His car burst into flames with him inside, leaving him with serious injuries. He was rushed to the intensive care unit of a local hospital and was reportedly responding well to treatment, but he succumbed to his injuries.

Mashau’s death comes as the feud between metered taxis and Uber continues over the legality of the app-based service from having vehicles positioned across the city and province to transport passengers.

The complaint by taxi cab drivers about Uber misses something more important than what has been revealed.

The government’s response to the issue also misses the real point about this economic development. Uber signals something bigger than just a single company entry to market, it reflects a shift in the way the global economy is organised.

There’s a creation of new marketplace that is taking place. It’s not just Uber, it’s the economy - the emergence of the platform economy. Companies that combine the characteristics of firms and markets - known as platform companies are replacing the old economy.

An Uber for everything

There’s now an Uber for everything, there’s an Uber for Hotels (Airbnb), Education (Udemy) and Cleaning (SweepSouth).

Resistance to these economic developments by industry players and governments is not an ideal response. There’s a need to adapt to the change that is taking place instead of throwing a protest and rule book to change.

A partnership between technology companies together with product developers and service providers needs to emerge to respond to any form of threats to these industries. Taxi cabs, health providers and others need to form an alliance with technologists to develop their own solutions or response to technological developments presented to them.

Governments and law makers need to get a better understanding of technology trends and align themselves with changes and stop to stand in the way of change with old rules for new economies.

In December, the Paris City Council in France decided to make it mandatory for people renting their flats on short-term websites such as Airbnb to register their property. This was just another reactionary approach to legislate this emerging economy. In South Africa, it has recently been reported that Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) has called on the government to intervene to ensure Airbnb becomes industry-compliant and regulated.

Short-term stays

Airbnb is an online booking platform that enables homeowners to rent space in their homes to guests for short-term stays. The concept has grown in popularity as travellers seek cost-effective alternatives to hotels.

Fedhasa has raised the issue of compliance as the bone of contention. They have highlighted lack of compliance with the South African Liquour Act as one of their major concern. They have indicated that failure to verify compliance with the South African Liquor Act creates a situation that allows an informal renter to supply a complimentary bottle of wine, which, light as it may seem, can unfairly tip the scales in Airbnb’s favour.

Today it’s Uber in the taxi cab industry; in the hotel industry it’s Airbnb; tomorrow it will be doctors and another app company. Are medical professionals, health industry and ministries ready?

There’s a need to plan for the emergence of the platform economy to avoid unnecessary conflicts. As part of The Infonomist work in sharing important information using data, possible industries to be impacted by technology will be documented. This will allow planners and legislators to be aware of future disruptions in the economy and develop laws in line with the future.

Wesley Diphoko is the head of Independent Media’s Digital Lab.