Assessing the role of Uber in Urban Mobilities for Social Justice

Authors: Julia Giddy*, University of Johannesburg
Topics: Urban Geography, Transportation Geography, Third World
Keywords: Travel mobilities, Uber, social justice, South Africa, urban inequality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Regent, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Uber, a transportation application, has played an important role in transforming local mobilities in many cities. Due to its global standards and brand recognition, it has become a major form of transportation and has recently expanded to cities in the global South. Uber has played a particularly important role in increasing mobilities in places with security concerns, such as South Africa, due to their competitive rates, the accountability of drivers, and their innovative security features.The introduction of Uber to Johannesburg has changed the nature of transportation in the city significantly. This paper seeks to examine some of the dynamics of Uber by analyzing three different aspects of the Uber phenomenon in Johannesburg. The first is its ability to increase the accessibility of certain parts of the city to a wider usership, particularly historically disadvantaged areas. The second is the role of Uber in the social justice movement, with a focus on the discourse propagated by Uber as a tool for economic upliftment. And finally, the challenges of the growth of Uber in Johannesburg, particularly driver safety and the subcontracting of drivers by wealthier individuals or organizations. The paper draws on secondary sources such as the Uber South Africa website, news articles and blogs. It also introduces primary research in the form of interviews with drivers as well as vehicle owners and surveys of Uber users in Johannesburg. The dynamics highlighted here are then contextualized in the broader discussions of Uber including its manifestation in other major cities.

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