The widespread use of internet-enabled devices is revolutionising the service industry worldwide, and South Africa is no exception.
Need a taxi or a courier? Want to watch a video or enjoy a hot meal? Need help cleaning your home? Increasingly, customers can use their smartphones to order whatever they need, when they need it – and have it brought directly to them.
Here we offer an overview of some of the most innovative on-demand services now available in South Africa.
With SweepSouth, you can book home cleaning services online and be put in touch with a professional cleaner within minutes. SweepSouth screens all cleaners, performing background checks and ensuring they have at least two years' experience. The cleaners are also fully insured by SweepSouth and are rated by the company's clients.
Started in 2014, SweepSouth is already hugely popular. It currently operates in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Centurion and Pretoria, but is rapidly expanding into new areas.
Internet-enabled devices are even bringing specialised healthcare to remote areas. South Africa's award-winning Vula Mobile app makes it possible for primary healthcare workers to connect with on-call specialists in urban centres.
Using the app, a general healthcare worker in a rural or remote area can send a medical specialist a patient's details, basic test results and medical history, even uploading photos if relevant. The specialist can then provide expert medical advice and direction, via a dedicated platform – quickly, easily and without the patient having to undertake a long, expensive journey.
At first the app was used only for ophthalmology referrals. However, its value was quickly recognised and today it's being used to provide access to specialist medical advice in a range of fields. Most recently, Vula Mobile added support for cardiology, orthopaedics and burns.
Giraffe is an online, fully automated recruitment agency. It claims to provide faster, cheaper recruitment than other agencies or employment services.
Job seekers use the app to create and upload their CVs to the Giraffe database, and employers use the app to submit recruitment requests. Giraffe then matches requests to candidates. Within 48 hours of receiving a request, it schedules a job interview between the employer and a suitable candidate.
The service focuses on medium-skilled jobs in areas such as admin, retail, hospitality, construction and security. Registration is free of charge.
Uber alternatives: Ryda, Unicab and Taxify
It's true that Uber is the leading on-demand taxi service, but there are also quite a few alternatives that have sprung up. Ryda in Johannesburg and Unicab in Cape Town are South African contenders for the local market. With Unicab, you can pre-book a taxi if you choose (rather than just looking for a cab the moment you need it). With Ryda, women are free to request female drivers – and if you've had a few drinks too many, you can ask a Ryda driver to fetch you and drive your car home.
The European Taxify launched in South Africa in 2016 and is available on Android, iOS and Windows devices. One way it differs from Uber – users who don't have smartphones can phone a call centre to order cabs.
UCOOK is a popular new food-delivery service that's available in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The company provides customers with recipes and the ingredients needed to cook them.
UCOOK sources local, ethical and organic produce for a selection of nine seasonally-inspired dishes each week. Lean and vegetarian options are available, and customers can order portions for one, two or four people. Orders close on Thursday, and groceries and recipes are delivered the following Monday.
WumDrop is an Uber-style app that allows you to request a courier service online and then track the delivery of your item via your smartphone. You can subscribe to the service and purchase a monthly package. Depending on your subscription, deliveries may cost as little as R8 per kilometre, making WumDrop cheaper than most traditional courier services.
SpaceBox is an innovative, online valet storage service that will deliver boxes to your door, wait for you to pack them and then store them at a secure facility until you need your items back again. When you do want something back, just contact SpaceBox and they'll return what you need.
You can use the durable, secure boxes that SpaceBox provides free of charge, use your own boxes or opt to store single items, all for a low monthly fee.