Samasource: Advancing the Microwork Revolution

by Olivia Allen

For­mal and dig­ni­fied employ­ment eludes bil­lions of peo­ple around the world, but Sama­source, a highly inno­v­a­tive social busi­ness, acknowl­edges the inter­net as a democ­ra­tiz­ing and empow­er­ing force that can pro­vide dig­ni­fied work. Sama­source con­nects women and youth earn­ing under $3 a day to microwork: computer-driven piece­work con­ducted over the inter­net that pro­vides a fair wage and valu­able job train­ing skills to the those for­merly excluded from the for­mal sector.

Leila Janah, founder and CEO of Sama­source pio­neered the con­cept of microwork as a solu­tion to the global jobs short­age after a visit to Kenya where she found that stag­ger­ing amount of work­ers, many skilled and lit­er­ate, could not find gain­ful employ­ment. Janah approached local Inter­net cafes that were will­ing to hire work­ers to per­form con­tracted work over the Inter­net, or what Janah calls “gate­way work,” thus cre­at­ing the first Sama­source deliv­ery center. 

Janah doesn’t view microwork as a per­ma­nent employ­ment solu­tion for every­one, but rather acknowl­edges Sama­source as a con­duit for gain­ing skills that drive suc­cess in other posi­tions in the for­mal sec­tor. In fact, 75% of Sama­source work­ers achieve a pro­mo­tion within their deliv­ery cen­ter, find other employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties in the for­mal sec­tor, or pur­sue edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties financed by income earned through microwork.

Since its incep­tion, Sama­source has dis­bursed $2 mil­lion in liv­ing wages to over 3,000 work­ers in Haiti, Kenya, India, Pak­istan, Uganda, and South Africa. In the future, it plans to scale to East Africa and South Asia in order to impact 120,000 women, youth, and depen­dents by 2016.

Sama­source engages in coun­try part­ners to recruit work­ers to per­form microwork at local deliv­ery cen­ters. After the com­ple­tion of com­puter lit­er­acy train­ing, microwork assign­ments are dis­trib­uted through the SamaHub, Samasource’s online pro­pri­etary plat­form that dis­trib­utes microwork, mon­i­tors qual­ity assur­ance, and recom­piles com­pleted work for clientele.

The inno­v­a­tive approach Sama­source takes to a seem­ingly intractable prob­lem gar­nered the sup­port of high-profile fig­ures such as Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton and Face­book COO Sheryl Sand­berg, some of the ear­li­est pro­po­nents of the social busi­ness. How­ever, Sama­source has wide mar­ket appeal and has worked with some of the largest cor­po­ra­tions in the US. Wal­Mart, eBay, Microsoft, Google, Intuit, and LinkedIn have all elicited tran­scrip­tion, data enrich­ment, and con­tent ser­vices from Samasource.

The cre­ation of a socially-driven sup­ply chain Sama­source ignited enables com­pa­nies to engage pre­vi­ously untapped human cap­i­tal in a pro­duc­tive man­ner while fos­ter­ing a renewed sense of opti­mism in the prospect of mak­ing sub­stan­tial progress in poverty alle­vi­a­tion by embrac­ing the inclu­siv­ity and oppor­tu­ni­ties the dig­i­tal era presents.

 

 

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