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Microjobbing in Sub-Saharan Africa

Microjobbing in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Although more employment opportunities are being advertised and delivered through the internet - for sub-Saharan Africa the trend is still emerging as it is often not seen as a viable stand-alone employment option, reveals an official.

The European Union says internet-mediated forms of work and or microjobbing includes crowd-sourced labour, crowdfunding, online volunteering and reciprocal work exchange (time banks).

GIBS (Gordon Institute of Business Science) in partnership with the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford is conducting ongoing research aimed at understanding internet-mediated work.

The countries of focus include Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines representing South-east Asia, and Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa.

And research respondents include individuals from various platforms, such as Elance and Odesk (international platforms) and in South Africa M4JAM (Money for Jam).

Helena Barnard, a director of research at GIBS, University of Pretoria has told ITWeb Africa that compared to South-east Asia, usage of microjobbing sites in sub-Saharan Africa is much lower.

According to Barnard the central purpose of the research is to determine how the internet and mobile phone access can help develop the economies of sub-Saharan Africa and South-east Asia.

Barnard explained that in South-east Asia doing online work has become the primary source of income for many respondents.

"More and more work is being done online, including tasks that previously would have been done from a physical location," she said.

"We see that many of the participants in South Africa at least, are in a transitioning phase in their lives... Doing online work allows them to earn some money during that process," she said.

Barnard added, "But it was also clear that the physical space continues to matter... For example, M4JAM does a lot of work where people go to verify a given business/ location. Although the job is advertised online, and although the information is submitted online, it is necessary to travel to the relevant place."

According to Barnard M4JAM respondents were very clear that M4JAM was offering some pocket money for activities that one would do by default.

"... they did not really see it as a viable stand-alone employment option. This type of sense was also obtained from people who were working on other sites in South Africa, although the situation was different in South-east Asia," she told ITWeb Africa. "Of course it is relevant that the cost of living in South Africa is higher than in South-east Asia, and people very seldom could earn enough doing only microwork to pay the bills," she said.

However, Barnard notes that microjobbing and internet-mediated work is likely to grow in significance as the internet becomes more pervasive.

"We do see that access to the internet, whether through a computer or a mobile phone, does allow people to access opportunities from across the world. However, it also means that jobbers are competing with people from across the world. We see clearly that, unless people have clear and unique skills, there tends to be substantial pressure on them to do work at the lowest price," she stated.

"It is likely that it will become more important in South Africa and the African context in general, but it is not clear how Africans will position themselves in that context," she concluded.

South Africa's internet penetration rate currently stands at 53%, according to BuddeComm research.

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