• The age of transparency



    Okay, I have downloaded the Uber App on my phone months ago but never found a chance to use it. On our latest adventure in Paris, my nieces and I went around the Paris metro system to run errands and visit some “musts” on our lists.

    Being a planner, an analog one though, I started to write our itinerary long before these younger ladies woke up. What train to take where, what route to use to get to the spots closer to each other on the map but may take an hour to walk.

    I remember many years ago, when we saw the legs of the Eiffel Tower, we thought we were so close to it. An hour later, we were still walking. Those were the days of analog street maps and no Google maps, no Four Square and no Uber.

    I happened to travel with a digital native the past week, and life has never been the same without a smartphone, a power pack (location settings eat up the phone’s power), and an openness to serendipity and “come what may.” Ros is a geographically-challenged soul in Manila. She and her driver are often the butts of jokes regarding directions and geography. But, armed with a smart phone and her favorite apps, we travelled with ease and most of all, with honesty and transparency as a new normal.

    First, the recommended cafés or restaurants on Four Square are already pre-filtered to be what you like or be at least offering your favorites: coffee, light organic meals, salads, desserts. So, just plug in your usual favorite places, and Four Square will find your speed in no time.

    Second, Google Maps. With phone in hand, Ros easily finds the walking directions to our desired destination. She also pre-computes the time needed for walking or if it sounds too far to walk, the time it will take you on a bus or train.

    Third, Airbnb (places to stay). I was inclined to choose a hotel on Booking.com or Agoda when Ros suggested an airbnb place. Being the digital immigrant that I am, I agreed as long as the place is in an area I was familiar with. She showed us the photos of the place we were targeting, the photo of the owner, and using our French-SIM powered phone, we conversed with Sebastien and found a place in the center of Paris. All this happened in 30 minutes as we packed our bags in Orleans.

    Fourth, we tried Uber (the private car taxi service) going back to our apartment after dinner and we were not disappointed. Ros says you can rate the driver (highest score or rating is 5) and the driver can rate you. How nice is that? You will no longer fall victim to taxi drivers who try to skin you for more money (usual tricks are showing you a smaller note and insisting you have to pay more or going the roundabout way in an unfamiliar city and charging you higher than usual). Now this is the age of transparency. You can find well-rated drivers and drivers can also choose not to choose you if you rate low in Uber’s system.

    I like this development in ICT or technology. It helps you navigate and find better and more honest service providers. First, our beautiful apartment in Paris where Sebastien (the owner) first checked us out (you can do this in the airbnb site) before confirming our reservation. Then, we found Sebastien’s apartment all furnished like we entered someone’s familiar home. He even kept the music playing when we arrived, had a short note for us to enjoy our stay, and made sure the place was ready.

    I never thought I would enjoy these new ways of travelling. But here I am being open to serendipity and pleasant adventure. And what I like most is the transparency it affords both service provider and customer. You can now choose who to deal with and people become more honest because you can always rate them after the service is provided.

    When we got to the apartment, Ros showed us her email of our Uber experience and the bill of our ride in Paris. No cash money changed hands. Just your identity on the Internet’s site for Uber or Airbnb. No wonder we did not even need to change money while we were in Stockholm for three days. Everything is now done through credit cards and your Internet persona.

    But a word of warning: it is so transparent a system that if you foul up, chances are Uber or Airbnb may not work for you anymore. Unless you change your identity.

    Welcome to the age of digital travel. I am a convert to this transparent way of doing business.

    Uber and out.

    * * *

    Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium, Centris QC mall and Davao City. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at puj@echostore.ph.


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    1 Comment

    1. This article annoyed me. For anyone to write about how big the legs of Eiffel Tower is from a distance, about, a friend’s driver, organic meals, or simply the fact that one visited Paris to readers where perhaps eighty percent of the people live below poverty line and more than half go to bed hungry is highly insensitive and inappropriate. This seems to be rubbing it in on our faces that while we wallow in filth and eat food unfit for human consumption, one jet sets in style. To amplify the luxury of a life style, of one’s friends, and family in an audience who can hardly afford to pay their way to work to me is just infuriating. Yes, it is a free country, one can do anything one wants. But to print an article like this for everyone to read does not do the public any good. It humiliates people and injures their sensitivities, at least mine. Yes, press freedom dictates that any view or article cannot be curtailed because doing so can have dangerous implications. Certainly, it is the paper’s job to expose corruption, inform, and perhaps inspire readers. Perhaps, this is the paper’s way of raising the level of the reader’s awareness that there is a big world out there and it is waiting to be explored. But in a country like ours, the paper should at least have some restraint in printing report like this. I am fully aware that since the newspaper is printed in English therefore, the readership appears to be the highly educated or perhaps members the elite of Philippine society. Flaunting wealth, accomplishments, and name dropping in this circle are as natural as breathing in and breathing out. No harm is meant or intended. I get that but I still maintain that this is in bad taste. Seemingly, those who have the means in this country have been de-sensitized to the plight of the poor and that word empathy never crosses their mind. I guess If you have seen mothers using their children to beg for food day in and day out, you are within your right to turn a blind eye.