Samasource: Advancing the Microwork Revolution

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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