Rogue drivers on taxi hailing apps Uber and Taxify have stepped up their fraudulent billing of customers, raising concerns over the ability of the automated platform owners to protect consumers.
The fraudulent taxi drivers use dummy apps that interfere with the authentic Uber and Taxify apps location (GPS) readings to create a parallel travel path that prolongs the journey and ultimately enables them to charge riders more.
The Business Daily first highlighted the customer billing fraud in May this year but a recent surge in the use of fake GPS itineraries has exposed the taxi-hailing platforms’ inability to safeguard their systems and block infiltration.
Hundreds of customers have recently reported suffering fraudulent billings by Uber and Taxify drivers.
The two operators, however, maintain that they have refunded all customers who report fraudulent activity — suggesting it is the clients’ responsibility to evaluate the fares charged after every trip to avoid losing money.
One passenger who used a Taxify taxi on Tuesday from the Nairobi central business district (CBD) to Kitengela was billed Sh850 for the 32.5-kilometre journey, only for the return trip on a different Taxify cab to bill her Sh1,550 after the journey path was altered to indicate that she had travelled for 66.8 kilometres.
The customer was yet to receive a refund by the time we went to press, even after lodging a complaint with Taxify two days earlier.
Another rider who travelled in an Uber taxi from Mbagathi Hospital to Nairobi CBD was charged Sh650 on grounds that she had travelled 15.82 kilometres, more than triple the 5.1-kilometre journey. The Uber estimate had indicated that she would pay about Sh320 prior to the trip.
One other rider, who used an Uber taxi from Kenya School of Law in Karen to the Movenpick Hotel in Westlands through Lang’ata Road — a distance of about 18.3 to 20 kilometres (Google Maps) – was billed Sh1,280 after the app indicated that he had covered 33 kilometres.
The customer had earlier received a fare estimate of Sh810 for the journey that took place during free-flowing traffic hours. The passenger received a refund of the difference (Sh470) after lodging a complaint through the Uber app.
Fake GPS itinerary
Taxify, responding to queries on irregular billings, confirmed that it had noticed the use of fake GPS itinerary but insisted that its drivers were incapable of manipulating trip distances.
“Yes, we are aware and have managed to block some drivers who have made attempts to game the system. Such attempts are immediately flagged by the fraud team, the driver’s account is suspended and the rider compensated,” Taxify country manager Kenya Alex Mwaura said.
“Please note that drivers cannot manipulate trip distances as this is calculated in real time as the vehicle moves. At the end of every trip, the passengers are able to confirm the fare directly from the app. A receipt is immediately sent on the email to validate how the trip was charged.”
Fraudulent billing by taxi drivers using e-hailing apps have been on the rise in Kenya since late 2017 after similar incidents were reported in Nigeria.
In an earlier correspondence with the Business Daily, Uber Kenya indicated that it was aware of the incidents, which were in breach of its operating guidelines.
“Uber is aware of these incidents. They are in clear violation of our Community Guidelines. Fraudulent activity undermines the trust on which Uber is built. That’s why we are constantly on the lookout for fraud by riders and driver-partners who are gaming our systems,” said Uber East Africa spokesperson Janet Kemboi in the past communication.
Reports showed that a test geofencing-based app, Lockito, was used by drivers to defraud their customers in Nigeria and later in Kenya.
The app is used to generate a fake trip and a fake fare from the point a driver picks up a passenger to the point they end the trip.
In most cases, the app is able to start the trip long before the actual one begins. At the end of the journey, the passenger is presented with a cost tally of both the actual and fake trip as the app cannot differentiate the two.
Most of the time the unsuspecting passengers will barely notice the glitch in the pricing or merely attribute it to the usual price surges.
Any customer who does not notice or report irregular billing through the support line offered on apps system will have left the fraudulent driver to go scot-free.
Blockchain breakthroughs in Africa signal enterprise adoption readiness
Technological breakthroughs such as blockchains and distributed ledger technologies are digital infrastructures that enable innovation. Businesses across the globe are already benefiting from blockchain-based technologies which are predicted to create over $3 trillion in business value by 2030 according to Gartner. Despite the huge potential, CIOs overestimate the capabilities and short-term benefits of blockchain technology to help them meet business objectives which creates unrealistic expectations when it comes to assessing offerings from blockchain platform vendors and service providers.
Companies such as IBM were early adopters of blockchain. “We have used it now to solve issues with the management of our supplier ecosystem and, most recently, we are working to use the technology to improve the way in which we onboard and manage the suppliers we work with (known as the Trust Your Supplier),” said Anthony Butler, IBM’s leader and CTO for blockchain services in Africa and Middle East.
Aligning blockchain projects to fit the overall business strategy of an organisation is key for companies looking to pursue blockchain-based implementations. “We are led by the market and we will build whatever capabilities we need in order to address market demand. We see a lot of companies now wanting to implement blockchain networks at scale so helping them with this, as well as the associated business challenges, is a core part of our strategy. “We are seeing customers who look to us, the general contractor, for convening blockchain networks across different countries, industries, and technologies,” said Butler.
There are also increasing opportunities to create even more value by applying AI and IoT to blockchain networks. This is also an area of focus for companies like IBM. For example, integrating sensors with a blockchain network to gather real time and immutable data on the temperature and conditions under which a product has been transported through a cold chain; or using AI to make predictions based on the data that is sourced via the blockchain network. “There are many emerging cases now and our research organisation is focused on what comes next so we are looking at the implication of quantum or how technologies such as crypto-anchors can be used to further strengthen supply chains with blockchain for example,” Butler explained.
The role of Cloud in implementations of blockchain solutions for African enterprises
African based companies are making blockchain technological implementations. “We completed the Cranberry Cognitive Operational Management Engine which provides the most relevant real-time business service and operational data to the relevant individuals and business units across all service levels of client organisations through interactive dashboards,” said Stin Mulunda, CIO at Cranberry AB. The company has delivered a future-proof business management system which will run optimally 24/7 by leveraging all aspects and elements of data and the environment to ensure an accurate understanding of current realities and how to enhance the future. “We are now able to provide businesses with:
- A single version of the truth through the implementation of smart contracts and the Business Node Consensus Ledger (BNCL);
- Real-time and predictive SLA compliance with bottleneck and business node identification;
- Customer, human resource, provider and operational trend analysis.
The scalability and reduction of total cost of ownership as energy consumption, system upgrades, hardware and software updates as well as infrastructure expert remuneration costs are axed from business expenses upon migration to cloud. The other benefit associated with cloud-based infrastructure is the myriad of software solutions which are compatible with an environment with the option to deploy remotely.
“Agility and service optimisation have become an essential trait for survival for businesses in every sphere of the economy, this has led to the mass adoption of enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and IoT which are all fundamentally cloud-based (distributed infrastructure),” said Mulunda. Cloud platforms such Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and AWS offer businesses the ability to leverage world-class infrastructure, artificial intelligence capabilities as well as blockchain and IoT solutions.
Cloud, automation, AI, machine learning, blockchain and advanced analytics are just some of the innovations being speedily implemented worldwide to combat business disruption. “The Cranberry Operational Engines’s machine learning and natural language processing algorithms provide organisational correlative analytics on all events, transactions and interactions across all business units and their underlying internal and external resources,” said Mulunda. “The business interaction module harnesses node data to calculate the business proficiency of all business units, individual human resources, and client interactions to provide business leaders a full view of the organization’s performance against set objectives, SLAs and targets at any given time.
This brings the unprecedented possibility to observe and predict current and future organisational efficiency, achievements, profitability, client sentiment, and customer experience by creating a seamless flow of information across internal and external business environments as is the case with a client such as Afrocentric, thereby future-proofing of every aspect of an organisation’s operations.”
“We’re currently in the final phase of the development of our neural analytic dashboards which will harness the Engine’s machine learning capabilities to provide executives with accurate real-time organizational correlative analytics,” Mulunda explained. These dashboards are programmed to analyse the most important/relevant metrics and KPIs to provide summarized intelligence on all events (i.e new customer vs returning customers, human resource punctuality vs revenue vs expenditure per province, store type, etc).
Written by: Heath Muchena, founder of Proudly Associated. Heath works with international companies looking to launch products and services in African markets. He is also the brains behind Block Patrol – a technology adoption and business development startup that pushes the value of advanced tech upstream. He is also the author of 15 books ranging from tech, political economy, business and finance.
Women In Big Data South Africa set to exhibit at AI Expo Africa 2020, amplify women in AI, Data Science
The Women in Big Data South Africa chapter, a forum which seeks to strengthen diversity in analytics and big data, is set to exhibit at AI Expo Africa 2020 Online with chairperson and strategic sourcing and research specialist Naomi Molefe also giving a talk on talent sourcing in artificial intelligence (AI) and Data Science at the show.
The expo which will this year be held as an online event on 3 and 4 September, is the continent’s largest trade-focused AI, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Data Science business conference.
Nick Bradshaw, co-founder of AI Media Group organisers of AI Expo Africa, stated “We’ve invited Women in Big Data South Africa to exhibit at this year’s show as part of our drive to make the AI and Data Science community more inclusive and diverse. AI will have direct social, economic and political impacts on our societies as we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as such it is imperative that women be included in this field to avoid gender bias and to come to come up with technologies that progress digital equality”.
“As we celebrate women’s month in South Africa this August, we should have more conversations, not only now — but all year round — on how to attract, encourage and support more women in AI and machine learning research, as well as in the big data and analytics field,” added Bradshaw.
The Women in Big Data Forum’s mission is to inspire and attract more female talent to big data roles and to help them connect, engage and grow. The organisation does this through networking events, professional development and by sharing industry related content with members.
Delegates to AI Expo Africa 2020 ONLINE who are passionate about the meaningful inclusion of women in AI should also visit Fliptin’s virtual booth at the show. The Johannesburg-based venture builder runs the AI in Africa social impact initiative — in partnership with the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation — which through a series of bootcamps exposes 15-18 year old female learners to AI concepts and ethics, as well as the design thinking process, pitching techniques and building chambers and image classifiers.AI Expo Africa 2020 ONLINE will also feature talks by prominent women working in the field. These include:
- Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and ML, World Economic Forum
- Renee Cummings, Criminologist and AI Ethicist, Columbia University
- Alison B Lowndes, AI Devrel EMEA, NVIDIA
- Ati Ngubevana, Group Executive HOD: Digital Process Engineering, Vodacom
- Kathryn Malherbe, CEO and founder, MedSol AI Solutions
- Kimara Naicker, PhD Researcher, UKZN Quantum Research Group
- Lebogang Martins, Senior Project Manager, IoT.nxt
- Lenore Kerrigan, Country Director SA, UiPath
- Nella Oluoch, CEO and founder, Keypetbooks
- Phumza Dyani, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer, Broadband Infraco; Chief Innovation Officer, Pan African Chamber of Commerce
- Celina Lee, CEO, Zindi
- Nazareen Ebrahim, AI Researcher, Socially Acceptable
- Minda Marshall, Director, LectorSA
- Vicki – 100% synthetic AI-powered host
Roy Bannister, Director Show Production at AI Expo Africa, stated “Not only do we have a superb line-up of regional and global female thought leaders, we uniquely also have a brand new addition to the show – Vicki.
Vicki is the first 100% synthetic AI-powered host of AI Expo Africa 2020. She is working at the show to introduce the main keynote speaker during the opening sessions of Day 1 and Day 2 of the show.
This technology has come a long way and will be showcased at the event. It’s becoming harder to tell the difference between real humans and synthetic actor, which is both an amazing innovation but also provokes interesting reactions, especially in the era of fake news and deep fakes. She is a testimony to how far this technology has come and we can assure our audience everything she says is true!”
Intel ‘Youth In AI ePavilion’ to promote inclusion of youth-focused initiatives at AI Expo Africa 2020
Intel is set to promote inclusion of African youth in Artificial Intelligence (AI) through the ‘Intel Youth in AI ePavilion’ at AI Expo Africa 2020, this after the industry-leading tech firm signed up to sponsor nine youth-focused companies and organisations to exhibit at this year’s expo.
Now in its third year, AI Expo Africa 2020 is the continent’s largest trade-focused AI, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), 4IR and Data Science business conference. This year’s show will be held online on 3 and 4 September.
The AI Expo Africa 2020 speaker line-up features keynotes by Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum; Neil Sahota, IBM Master Inventor, UN AI expert and lecturer at University of California, and Fred Werner, Head of Strategic Engagement at the International Telecommunication Union, and Bayo Adekanmbi, CTO MTN Nigeria and founder of Data Science Nigeria, as well as Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg and Deputy Head of the 4IR Commission of South Africa.
The Intel ‘Youth in AI ePavilion’ will promote and showcase youth-focused AI companies and organisations, as well as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives.
Roy Bannister, co-founder of AI Media Group and director of AI Expo Africa show production stated: “We’re delighted to welcome Intel back as a sponsor this year, especially given their focus on skills development and great support in the past, where Intel assisted us in providing free AI Workshops to a large number of data science students, young engineers and entrepreneurs.”
Nick Bradshaw, co-founder of AI Media Group – curators of AI Expo Africa stated, “With the impact of COVID, we have taken the entire community online this year. It means we can reach more countries and include more people. Uniquely this platform not only allows us to run our two-day business event, but it also serves as a 30-day learning platform after the main event ends. All the talks, vendor booths, posters and content are available for young people, students, entrepreneurs and learners from across South Africa and wider Africa to join us and learn about the latest technology driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Africa”.
“We thank Intel for supporting this aspect of our show as this is a great opportunity for young people to learn about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and even find a job. The reach of this online eConference and Youth AI component will be bigger than our previous two shows – we can’t wait to welcome everyone on the 3rd of September,” concluded Bradshaw.