Gig Workers Take Back Control To Combat Bias Algorithms

Cleaners, couriers and cabbies from around the world are taking control of their work by creating new apps without the bias they face from some traditional gig platforms.  In South Africa a group of female domestic workers have helped develop We Care, a platform that links women and work by geographic location which saves them time and money.  The enterprise is owned by its workers who picked the pay levels, hours and ideal algorithmic programming while also undergoing digital literacy training.

Digital researchers and activists say that algorithms on gig work sites often penalise women who are unable to accept jobs as frequently as men, resulting in lower customer ratings and deactivation, with limited scope for discussion with platforms.  Yet globally, women undertake roughly three times more unpaid care work than men, a load that was only exacerbated by COVID-19, according to data from U.N. Women.

For the past three years, South Africa social justice researcher Fairuz Mullagee has worked with nearly 50 domestic workers in Cape Town and Johannesburg to build We Care.  The app will launch later this year, and the algorithm links women and work by geographic location to save them wasting cash and time.  It also ensures all women have equal access to opportunities and do not incur bad ratings simply due to family emergencies.

The story gets better as this isn’t an isolated development.  ActionAid found plenty more apps that work on the same lines as We Care, from Kenya’s female-only An Nisa ride-hailing app to nearly a dozen female-led platforms in Brazil.  At their core is fairness and accountability which empowers workers to ensure they are treated properly, and paid fairly for the work that they do.

It’s a brilliant idea – bringing together entrepreneurial workers to create apps that counteract biases, whilst also developing new skills for these workers.  A win-win!

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