Smartcards dont kill people -politics kills people.

October 99 News & Events

Smartcards don't kill people, politics kills people. This is Net1 Applied Technology's response to media reports linking taxi violence to the roll-out of a smartcard payment programme.

"Many factors are responsible for violence," says Net1 Executive Director Hanoch Neishlos, "but technology certainly isn't one. We accept no linkage between violence and technology, smartcards included."

Several taxi drivers belonging to different taxi associations have been killed in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria. Media speculation has identified the recently implemented smartcard system as a possible reason for the attacks, but both Net1 and its partner the SA Local and Long Distance Taxi and Bus Organisation (SALLDTBO) disagree. "The perception that smartcards create violence is wrong. It is completely unfounded," says SALLDTBO Executive Chairman Simon Sentle.

There is, however, a rival card payment system in operation in Soshanguve and this is big business. Net1 says it invests between R3 million and R4 million in every 1000 taxis fitted. The business has a current cash flow in excess of R400 million per year. But Sentle says no pressure was put on associations not using the same system and that their business was not under threat. "Everyone is happy," he says.

The smartcard system is part of Net1's ambition to establish a cashless national payment system. Especially targeted at unbanked and underbanked sectors of the economy, the system holds no inherent cost for the user. Net1's substantial profits are derived from the companies making use of the service which now includes large retailers and taxi owners. "Taxis are fundamental for the national payment system," Neishlos says. He foresees taxis becoming financial services hubs for cardholders, as the terminals can handle all necessary transactions.

Both Neishlos and Sentle believe the timing of the new outbreak of violence is entirely co-incidental. They do admit that the new system may be used as an excuse for the settling of grudges. "There is underlying politics involved here," Neishlos says.

The taxi industry as a whole has a long, complicated and often violent history. Soshanguve is no exception. Neishlos notes that Shoshanguve was not the first area where the system was rolled out and that as many as 1000 taxis use the technology outside of Soshanguve.

Net1 is particularly upset about the media focus on its product because it believes itself responsible for social upliftment. The implementation of smartcards has seen taxi drivers receive social benefits and taxi owners can now receive finance, insurance and other services previously hard to secure. Not only that, but Net1 believes it is making the industry much more accountable.

"It is now impossible for these taxis to be overloaded," says Sentle. If the limit is 15 and 17 people are loaded, the card shows us this and we can deal with the driver responsible." SALLDTBO says there was widespread corruption and petty fraud in its industry. Palm greasing and the occasional pocketing of a few hundred rand was not unusual. With the cash element removed, the association says, corruption has dropped to zero.

Meanwhile the roll-out of the technology will go ahead as planned. Another 6000 taxis are to have systems installed in the Western and Eastern Cape regions and the Nelspruit area. "We will not be deterred by violence," Neishlos vows. Net1 will consider further action based on police reports.

Source: ITWeb for Net1 Applied Technology

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