Global Development Institute Blog

Professor Richard Heeks recently delivered a seminar entitled ‘Decent Work and the Digital Gig Economy in Developing Countries’. You can listen to the podcast of the seminar below.

This talk was based on Prof Heeks recent Development Informatics Working Paper, Decent Work and the Digital Gig Economy: A Developing Country Perspective on Employment Impacts and Standards in Online Outsourcing, Crowdwork, etc.


The digital gig economy involves online outsourcing of intangible tasks – software development, graphic design, image tagging, sales and marketing, academic research, HR, etc – via platforms such as Upwork and Freelancer.  Worth around US$5 billion annually, growing at 20-30% per year and with some 70 million workers registered worldwide, it represents an important strand in the future of work.  With c.80% of clients in the global North and c.80% of workers in the global South, it also represents an important strand in the future of economic globalisation and development.

This presentation will describe the nature of digital gig work, and review different perspectives on the need for intervention in work that is largely hidden from the traditional oversight of government, unions, civil society, etc.  It will provide a checklist of “decent digital work” standards, and discuss ways forward in which these form the basis for future action research.  The material presented is part of the ESRC GCRF-funded “Development Implications of Digital Economies (DIODE)” research network.

You can also find this and other episodes on:
Note:  This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of the Global Development Institute as a whole.
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