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An Taxi-Hailing Apps Launches In Johannesburg

2013-11-24
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

Getting a taxi ride in New York city is as easy as standing along a street and raising your hand high in the air. In Johannesburg, getting a taxi ride just got even easier, thanks to a new software application. SnappCab lets users call a taxi simple by touching the screen of their smartphone.


Anton van Metzinger shows how the SnappCab app, which allows users to hail a cab and pay for it electronically, works on his smartphone. (VOA/Peter Cox)

Anton van Metzinger is the managing director of SnappCab. He and two partners launched their smartphone app in September. He explains how it works.

"You open the app. And you literally with two clicks of a button you can order a cab. Using your GPS, you click the button, you electronically hail the cab, it connects you to the closest cabs in the area. So I get the cab driver's name, I get the cab driver's company ID he or she works for, their vehicle registration details and the vehicle description. So I know, as the passenger I know exactly which cab is coming to me and I can now track it on my smartphone," said van Metzinger.

When the vehicle arrives, the app sends a message to the passenger. When the ride is done, He or she can either pay the driver directly, or pay using the smartphone.

"We've been in the market only for about a month now and we already see that the credit card payment option is very popular, in fact more popular than we expected initially... People are getting used to the idea of online shopping, they're getting used to the idea of mobile. We predict that a year down the line, the majority of our transactions will be by credit card," said van Metzinger.

But critics say the move to financial transaction through mobile apps has been slow. Arthur Goldstuck is managing director of World Wide Worx, he also marks as a writer who specializes in South African technology. He says many South Africans are not get ready to make online purchases by telephone. He says they lack trust in the technology.

"There's a phenomenon in this country and probably across Africa, that we call the digital participation curve. And it shows that the average Internet user needs to have been online for five years or more before they're ready to start transacting online," said Goldstuck.

But there have been success stories. An app called Powertime was launched in 2009, it sells pre-paid, or pay-as-you-go electricity. Before Powertime, power users would have to go to a fueling station or store to buy pre-paid electricity.

"What I find that is working in South Africa, is if you build an app that is relevant to the country because it solves a local problem. Kind of a local app for a local problem. And I think that was part of the success of Powertime. It was a very, very significant issue in South Africa to buy pre-paid electricity,"said Lacour.

With the group of dependable customers, Powertime has now moved into paying for other services, like water bills and airtime for mobile phones.

There are an estimated 14.7 million smartphones registered with South African telecom networks. That number is sure to grow as local smartphone prices drop below $100 and as South African technology companies began launching smartphones of their own.

And that is the Technology Report from VOA Special English. I'm June Simms.