Call for participation in a case study titled: A study of perceptions towards and usage of cash by transportation network company drivers in South Africa and East Africa

Transportation network companies (TNC) like Uber and Taxify/Bolt [1] and the “gig economy” and resulting “digital intermediation of work” that these apps facilitate between transportation network companies and workers offer new opportunities for self-employment (or at least “microwork”) for many in the global South. Along with these opportunities should also come opportunities for financial inclusion. One such opportunity could be through previously “unbanked” Uber and Taxify/Bolt drivers opening and use bank accounts required for using the app and receiving payments. How deep is this implied financial inclusion offered by Uber and Taxify/Bolt and what are the obstacles to it? With the aim of contributing to investigations of the opportunities and challenges to financial inclusion emerging in the global South as a result of the transportation network companies (TNCs) Uber and Taxify/Bolt, a study of perceptions towards and acceptance of cash by Uber and Bolt/Taxify in South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania will be conducted.

Mobile phones have for a decade been proclaimed to hold the promise of “leapfrogging” technical and developmental challenges in the South. The promise of leapfrogging had many shortcomings [2] including its promises of financial inclusion. One of the promises of such mobile phone leapfrogging identified over a decade ago was that they could be used to create a mobile wallet for money, helping to bank, or provide bank account like products to the unbanked, while bypassing the need for conventional bank accounts. [3] A success story of mobile banking is the M-Pesa mobile wallet developed in Kenya, which has helped extend financial inclusion to Kenyan mobile phone users, as well as eliminate much need for cash. Have mobile phones and the digital intermediation of work [4] and the gig economy [5] contributed to deepening financial inclusion for minimal viable self-employed individuals beyond mobile wallets?

Have the app-centred Transportation Network Companies (TNC), Uber and Taxify/Bolt, helped contribute to a future where mobile phones help replace the need for cash?

The rollout and operations of Uber and Taxify/Bolt in South Africa highlight some important challenges to this future, and to the promise of these apps of augmenting and deepening financial inclusion.

VOUS is looking for an assistant to provide assistance in organising interviews and focus groups with respondents and helping with translation when needed. The assistant should ideally have the following skills and qualifications:

* A resident of Johannesburg or very familiar with Johannesburg
* A university degree in a relevant research-related field
* One years work experience in research, fieldwork, or with civil society organisations
* Fast transcription/note taking skills on pen and paper, as well as typing (essential)
* Basic computer literacy
* Proficiencies in Tswana, Zulu, Afrikaans and English desired
* Available in June 2019 for two weeks

To receive the full concept note including working bibliography, details on deliverables, scope of work of assistant, period of work and renumeration e-mail your expression of interest to your@vous.ai. The case study is directed by Martin Konzett and Alex Comninos.

[1] Taxify has in March 2019 changed its name to Bolt, and is currently rolling this change out across different market.

[2] Robert Davison et al., “Technology Leapfrogging in Developing Countries–an Inevitable Luxury?,” The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries 1, no. 1 (2000): 1–10; Gado Alzouma, “Myths of Digital Technology in Africa: Leapfrogging Development?,” Global Media and Communication 1, no. 3 (2005): 339–356.

[3] Alex Comninos, Steve Esselaar, Ali Ndiwalana and Christoph Stork, M-banking the Unbanked, Towards Evidence-based ICT Policy and Regulation Volume 1 Policy Paper 4. Research ICT Africa: 2008.

[4] Prassl, Jeremias. Humans as a Service: The Promise and Perils of Work in the Gig Economy. Oxford University Press, 2018.

[5] The gig economy is in the literature generally ill defined, our working definition is “The gig economy is the collection of markets that match providers to consumers on a gig (or job) basis in support of on-demand commerce. In the basic model, gig workers enter into formal agreements with on-demand companies to provide services to the company’s clients. Prospective clients request services through an Internet-based technological platform or smartphone application that allows them to search for providers or to specify jobs.Providers (i.e., gig workers) engaged by the on-demand company provide the requested services and are compensated for the jobs.” Donovan et al, “What Does the Gig Economy Mean for Workers?”.