Published on Digital Development

Online outsourcing is creating opportunities for job seekers and job creators

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ImageMeet  Joan, a 24-year-old online outsourcing entrepreneur in Kenya. Joan started working online when she was 21 and still in university. Today, she has her own business, employs five people and earns approximately US$800 per month after paying her staff.
Joan and many others are profiled in a new study on online outsourcing (OO), entitled “ Leveraging the Global Opportunity in Online Outsourcing,” which will be published in late March 2015.

The study, developed by the World Bank in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation’s Digital Jobs Africa Initiative, is the first publication to summarize and analyze global experiences in OO. It provides a better understanding of OO’s potential impact on human capital and employment, as well as explores possible ways that governments can improve their competitiveness in the OO market. The study includes case studies from Nigeria and Kenya, and an online toolkit to assess country competitiveness.
What is online outsourcing (OO)? Also referred to as paid crowdsourcing, it is:
The contracting of third-party workers and providers (often overseas) to supply services or perform tasks via Internet-based marketplaces
These technology-mediated platforms generally enable clients to outsource their paid work to a large, distributed global labor pool of remote workers, and/or enable performance, coordination, delivery and payment of such services online.
To be able to access jobs on the various platforms, workers need basic infrastructure: a computer and an internet connection. Joan is able to successfully deliver work through internet-based marketplaces by providing computers and internet connection for herself and her workers, but this is still a barrier for many potential workers. Other key barriers include lack of skills and challenges in finding and securing jobs. Joan has been able to jump over these hurdles, but others will need government intervention and changes in policy to be able to tap into the opportunities that OO has to offer.
The findings of the study suggest that the global opportunity for OO will continue to grow, driven by increased private sector demand and trends such as the emergence of Big Data and Open Data. It is estimated that by 2020, the size of the OO industry will be in the range of US$15 to $25 billion, and could employ at least 30 million registered workers.
Some current OO platforms include Samasource and Crowdflower, which provide managed services for clients looking to employ workers with basic numeracy and literacy skills for microwork, including transcription and translation. There’s also Elance-oDesk and Freelancer, which provide more of a freeform marketplace to match workers to projects requiring higher-level skills, such as business plan development and 3D animation. Joan and her employees primarily work as article writers via the Asiawriters marketplace.
For millions of people like Joan, OO offers the chance to find a decent-paying job – or even start a small business – providing online work for clients around the world. Developing countries like Kenya and Nigeria have enormous potential for this kind of work. By helping connect companies and governments to workers in a competitive and mutually beneficial way, there are plenty of opportunities for more and more Joans to not only find work for themselves, but also help create jobs for others.


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