I am the Professor of Internet Geography at the Oxford Internet Institute (University of Oxford). There I lead the ‘Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality‘ research cluster and am the primary investigator on two projects that seek to ask critical questions about the gig economy.
The first focuses on the gig economy and digital outsourcing in Sub-Saharan Africa. We are attempting to understand the impacts of the ‘gig economy’ and digital outsourcing for workers, businesses, and virtual production networks in Sub-Saharan Africa. We do this by interviewing and surveying online freelancers, call/contact centre workers, and digital business owners in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana. This will help us to better understand whether new digital practices taking root in Sub-Saharan Africa offer a significant departure from previous opportunities that have been available to people, or whether we are simply seeing new forms of exploitation now made possible by efficient communication technologies.
The second focuses on online freelancing in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. My team specifically aims to understand the implications of online freelancing for economic development. Below are a few short publications I’ve written on the topic:
- Graham, M. and Wood, A. 2016. Why the digital gig economy needs co-ops and unions. openDemocracy. Sept 15, 2016
- Graham, M. 2016. Digital work marketplaces impose a new balance of power. New Internationalist.May 25, 2016
- Graham, M. 2016. Organising the Digital “Wild West”: Can Strategic Bottlenecks Help Prevent a Race to the Bottom for Online Workers? Union Solidarity International. May 11, 2016 (also translated into Turkish)
- Graham, M. 2016. Digital Work and the Global Precariat. Union Solidarity International. Mar 30, 2016
- Graham, M. 2015. Digital Work Signals a Global Race to the Bottom. SciDevNet Sept 15, 2015
This research has made me realise that coalitions of workers, activists, and consumers need to move away from a world of work built on the need to facilitate competition between workers. If we don’t, then, and as ever more people join the Internet every year, we will likely see ever worse working conditions for workers. Platform cooperatives are hopefully one strategy that can help foster cooperation instead of competition between workers. I hope to be able to help this initiative with research, education, and outreach.