Connecting Women and Youth to Meaningful Microwork via the Internet
What is the innovation and how does it address a pressing problem?
Samasource provides wages and meaningful work via the Internet to women and youth who were previously earning less than a living wage. In many developing countries, formal work is scarcely available. Workers rely on informal jobs, which often do not pay a living wage and are often not stable forms of employment. This lack of opportunity for income keeps workers trapped in the cycle of poverty.
Working with US- and Europe-based technology and data companies, Samasource identifies projects that can be done via the Internet, such as Internet research, image tagging, or transcription services. Using Samasource’s technology platform, the SamaHub, projects are broken down into small pieces of work, or microwork. Samasource works with in-country partners to recruit women and youth formerly earning below a local living wage. These recruits receive 2-4 weeks of computer-based training on the SamaHub, including English and soft skills, to prepare them for microwork. Once they finish training and demonstrate proficiency, workers begin performing microwork, and in turn begin to earn a living wage.
Samasource brings employment into disadvantaged communities and allows workers to enter the formal sector. Samasource enables disadvantaged people to earn wages while building their confidence and skillset, with the goal of helping to lift them out of poverty permanently.
What existing practices inspired the innovation and how does it represent something new?
Samasource combines a new model of outsourcing called impact sourcing with a novel form of job creation, microwork. Impact sourcing differs from traditional Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies because it is designed to empower disadvantaged, low-skilled workers. In addition, by relying on Samahub, the microwork model requires very little infrastructure. With only a computer and Internet access, the Samasource model breaks down barriers to accessing formal employment for disadvantaged individuals.
Workers begin earning a living wage within weeks, often doubling their income in the first few months of employment at a partner center. Through ongoing training and consistent feedback, workers gain the experience necessary to succeed in the formal sector.
Samasource represents a new way of outsourcing semi-skilled work to the underemployed in an effective way.
Please describe the social impact to date, as well as potential impact in the future.
To date, Samasource has provided digital employment to over 3,400 marginalized women and youth in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean, and has paid out $3 million in wages and other partner payments. Samasource’s impact studies show that 75% of Samasource workers go on to better opportunities: they are promoted to better positions within the partner center, use savings to pursue further education, or use their skills to obtain a formal position at another company. Those who remain continue earning a wage through microwork that allows them to better support their families.
Samasource has a goal of reaching 20,000 workers by 2016.
Jobs are a critical part of people’s lives globally, and what Samasource has developed is an innovative way to create them. This has the potential to transform how people look for work, and where they are able to find it. It is estimated that 43 million people globally could benefit from microwork. Low-end digital work—the sort enabled by Samahub—is thus a fast growing industry and could provide dignified work for millions of people.