Bringing New Technologies to Developing Countries: Ride-Hailing Apps as a Use Case
by Syed Hassan Ahmed, Member IEEE, and Muhammad Toaha Raza Khan, IEEE Student Member
IEEE Internet Initiative eNewsletter, May 2017
The open source Software Development Kits (SDKs) have opened markets for young developers and engineers to develop various mobile apps and start businesses from small to large scales. In the recent past, we have witnessed an enormous growth in the development of mobile applications in the automation industries. In one way or another, those applications are proven to be a major source of income and provide good quality services with less to invest as a customer. A few of the many examples are ride-hailing apps like Uber, Lyft, and Careem . These applications have changed the way of commuting within cities . The main idea was to let users (drivers) use their cars to give rides throughout their cities to the other users (riders)  ; while these applications play the role of intermediate parties to assure the good Quality of Service and Experience . To this end, everything seems perfect and in order. However, when it comes to implementing these applications on the real ground basis, it was never a straight task. Especially when companies are trying to establish their businesses in developing countries. In this article, we overview the possible constraints faced by Uber company in general and point out the constraints when Uber moved to developing countries, such as Pakistan.
Security and Privacy
First and foremost, security and privacy for both drivers and riders were the main concern   . Thanks to sophisticated security protocols, it was not an issue to connect a mobile app to the credit card or debit card of your bank . On the other hand, getting secure access to the data of personnel provided by government authorities was a tricky adventure too. Here it is worth noting that in the United States, and other developed countries around the globe, no one can drive a car without insurances both of drivers and vehicles. In addition, also the passengers have their own health and travel insurances  . It is very hard to fake identifications. These features and verified details have enabled the ride-hailing app developers to connect millions of drivers to trillions of riders. Both riders and drivers can enjoy the facility due to a secured and centralized IT infrastructure, which behaves as a backbone for the success of these smart apps . On the other hand, the developing countries, such as Pakistan, which generally don’t have centralized IT infrastructures will face problems from the very first step. Such countries commonly have substandard insurance system, as there is very less or even no centralized electronic data available regarding a driver’s driving and traveling history, his/her health condition and vehicle’s fitness status, etc. This information is not sufficient but is at least crucially necessary for the security and privacy of both rider and the driver    causing serious constraints in the success of these ride-hailing apps.
Governing Rules and Regulations
It is government’s responsibility to provide a respectful and safe environment for both riders and drivers. To make it possible governments should take initiative to develop an online, centralized database for smart driving licenses along with a driver’s driving record, criminal and accident history. Governments should also maintain an online record of vehicle registration and should also update the vehicle health status periodically. Specific area route permits should only be given to those who successfully provide the proof of a driver’s residence in that specific area. It is not a one-time job; record maintenance and preservation is to be assured to regulate the cases of deceit. Governments can also collect a considerable amount of revenue if they introduce flexible taxation on commercial use of private cars that may motivate young drivers to make respectful money on their own. Governments also need to take necessary measures on accidents and mishaps. They should create an auspicious environment for the insurance companies and then impose strict regulations regarding vehicle and health insurances for both drivers’ and riders’ care.
Profit and Loss Trails
Smart devices and task oriented smart apps are very handy in time saving and comfort. After enormous success in the developed countries, these apps are finding a very big market in the developing countries. The arrival of these multinational services will create hundreds and thousands of jobs for the unemployed and will also help to carve the way for different apps and projects that may provide on-demand services to their customers in domains like transport, health, security, and maintenance. But in the developing countries, these services will challenge the existing traditional transport system. Due to lack of awareness of smart devices and apps, drivers will have difficulties surviving in the competition. On the other hand, riders over 50 will be hesitant and reluctant in adopting to these “fancy services.” Last, but not the least, the local traditions and cultures of the society will also have a considerable effect on the business of these apps especially in the early phase.
Ride-hailing apps are a very convenient way to travel from one place to another with ease and are also an estimable method to earn handsome money. Due to developed IT infrastructure, along with state-of-the-art health and care facilities, these apps were successful in the developed countries. Although these apps have a huge market potential in the developing countries, yet due to lack of regulations and standardized centralized IT infrastructure they will face great challenges at the domestic and government levels. These apps can play a significant role in the growth of the developing countries, but to make it possible both the governments and ride-hailing app owners should come up with feasible and efficient solutions.
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 UBER, "USER PRIVACY STATEMENT," [Online]. Available: https://www.uber.com/legal/privacy/users/en/. [Accessed: 25- Apr- 2017]
Syed Hassan Ahmed
Syed Hassan Ahmed (S’13, M’17) received his B.S in Computer Science from Kohat University of Science and Technology, Pakistan. Later, he completed his Masters combined Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from School of Computer Science and Engineering, Kyungpook National University (KNU), Korea in 2017. In 2015, he was also a visiting researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA. Dr. Ahmed published over 70 International Journal and Conference articles in addition to two Springer brief books. From the year 2014 to 2016, he won the Best Research Contributor award in the workshop on Future Researches of Computer Science and Engineering, KNU. In 2016, he also won the Qualcomm Innovation Award at KNU. He is also an IEEE and ACM member while serving several reputed conferences and journals as a TPC and Reviewer respectively. His research interests include Sensor and Ad hoc Networks, Cyber-Physical Systems, Vehicular Communications, and Future Internet.
Muhammad Toaha Raza Khan
Muhammad Toaha Raza Khan received the B.S degree in Electrical Engineering from COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Wah Campus, Pakistan in 2016. He is currently a member of Wireless & Mobile Internet Laboratory (MoNet) and student of MS combined Ph.D. program in Computer Science and Engineering in Kyungpook National University (KNU), Korea. His current research interests include Machine Learning Application in Underwater Acoustic Sensor Networks.
Dr. Saman Iftikhar
Dr. Saman Iftikhar received her M.S and Ph.D. degrees in Information Technology in 2008 and 2014, respectively, from National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. Currently she is serving Saudi Electronic University as an Assistant Professor in Saudi Arabia. Her research interests include information security, cyber security, distributed computing, and semantic web. On her credit, ten research papers have been published in various reputed journals. Nine research papers have been presented in prestigious conferences in Pakistan, Dubai, Japan, Malaysia and America. One book chapter is also included in her publications. She is also a member of IEEE, IEEE WIE, IEEE IAS, IEEE Computer Society and IEEE Communication Society. She is also with “IEEE Academic Pakistan” initiative as Speaker and Coordinator.
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IEEE Internet Policy Newsletter Editorial Board
Dr. Ali Kashif Bashir, Interim Editor-in- Chief
Dr. Syed Hassan Ahmed
Dr. Mudassar Ahmad
Dr. Onur Alparslan
Dr. Muhammad Bilal
Dr. Syed Ahmad Chan Bukhari
Dr. Ankur Chattopadhyay
Dr. Junaid Chaudhry
Dr. Waleed Ejaz
Dr. Yasir Faheem
Dr. Prasun Ghosal
Dr. Tahir Hameed
Dr. Y. Sinan Hanay
Dr. Shagufta Henna
Dr. Fatima Hussain
Dr. Rasheed Hussain
Dr. Saman Iftikhar
Dr. Stephan Jones
Dr. Mohammad Saud Khan
Dr. Jay Ramesh Merja
Dr. Mubashir Husain Rehmani
Dr. Hafiz Maher Ali Zeeshan
About: This newsletter features technical, policy, social, governmental, but not political commentary related to the internet. Its contents reflect the viewpoints of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions and views of IEEE. It is published by the IEEE Internet Initiative to enhance knowledge and promote discussion of the issues addressed.