Crowdsourcing: An Economic Perspective

Crowdsourcing is the ‘process of finding needed information and service for a common goal from a large number of people’ [Halder, 2014]. Using of crowdsourcing process in business started with the web-based crowdsourcing service- Amazon Mechanical Turk,[1] in 2005. Over the last few years, crowdsourcing has expanded rapidly in the business world.

Crowdsourcing can also indirectly influence economic governance by increasing market efficiency and by offering additional income sources to empower small-scale producers and poor workers [Bott et al., 2014]. Crowdsourcing allows having better awareness of market prices that reduces low-income farmers’ risks when deciding whether to plant a particular crop as well as where to sell it. The International Trade Centre started mCollect[2] in 2006 with the intention of developing an integrated pro-poor value chain by enhancing export opportunities and trade throughout West Africa [Livingston, 2010]. Using the crowdsourcing process, mCollect makes it easier for the information collectors to gather domestic prices straight from the local agricultural markets. The information is then distributed via SMS to interested farmers and businesses in the region and it has been implemented in Burkina Faso, Liberia, Mali, and Senegal [Bott et al., 2014]. In Bangladesh, 200,000 sugarcane farmers around the country are benefiting [World Bank, 2012] from a service system called e-Purjee[3]that relies on SMS (text messaging) to alert farmers when to bring their sugarcane to market [Halder, 2013]. Another crowdsourcing initiative, Mobile Marketplace, enables small-scale producers to advertise their products to wholesalers and exporters via mobile phones. This greatly expands the opportunities to connect buyers and sellers beyond farmers’ or traders’ immediate locales [Livingston, 2010]. TradeNet[4], Esoko[5], Resimao[6] and Community Knowledge Worker[7] by the Grameen Foundation[8] are similar programs in Africa that aim to collect and make market data and agricultural information, crowdsourced from farmers, available on the Web and via mobile phones in order to enhance market efficiency [Bott et al., 2014]. In Palestine, some countries is Africa and the Middle East, ‘JobMatch’[9] connects thousands of Job Seekers and employers through a simple, easy-to-use SMS format. [Halder, 2013] By providing users real-time information on their mobiles, ‘JobMatch levels the playing field of access to jobs and employees, helping break cycles of poverty and unemployment’ [World Bank, 2012]. One more crowdsourcing service called ‘txtEagle / JANA’[10] is generating additional income for low-income populations. This service is based on the concept of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. This crowdsourcing service enables mobile phone users to earn small amounts of money by completing simple tasks on their mobile phones for companies. The companies pay these ad hoc workers either in airtime or in mobile money. The tasks range from translation, transcription, marketing surveys, and software localization etc [Bott et al., 2014].  TxtEagle was established in 2009 and provides an additional source of income for rural and low-income populations in Kenya, Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Vietnam and Rwanda.[11]

However, it has been identified that at this moment the economic benefits of using crowdsourcing process in crisis governance is one of the most important benefits. Crowdsourcing process reduces the potential cost of crisis management work from different perspectives. Rescue workers, donors and development program implementers in disaster management work, can use crowdsourcing as a cost-effective tracking and monitoring tool. A study titled ‘Resilience in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy’[12] showed that disaster-affected communities were self-organized in helping each other. The Superstorm Sandy ‘brought out the best in neighbours, with reports of many people sharing access to power, food and water, and providing shelter.’[13] However, the most interesting experience was that more than 1,400 kindhearted citizens offered free housing to people heavily affected by the hurricane Sandy. Both the house owners and disaster victims found each other online using crowdsourcing process via AirBnB.[14] Some house owners offered free houses for disaster victims.[15]  Thus, using crowdsourcing process under the ‘share economy’[16] concept, ‘asset owners use digital clearinghouses to capitalize the unused capacity of things they already have, and consumers rent from their peers rather than rent or buy from a company’ [Geron, 2013]. The City of San Francisco has lunched a partnership with BayShare[17], a sharing economy advocacy group in the Bay Area [Meier, 2013]. The partnership’s goal is to “harness the power of sharing to ensure the best response to future disasters in San Francisco.”[18]

Thus, crowdsourcing process has huge potential of economic well-being for the society. A detail study on the economic perspective of crowdsourcing for human good would be really helpful to understand the economic benefit of crowdsourcing.


Footnotes:

[1]One of the first successful large-scale commercial crowdsourcing marketplaces, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk provides a platform for computer programmers to coordinate a crowd of workers to perform tasks that computers are unable to do yet, such as translating, writing product descriptions, or identifying performers on music compact discs. The workers can browse among existing tasks and complete them for a monetary payment.

[2] See http://legacy.intracen.org/trade-at-hand/ for more information. Accessed on: 02/06/2014.

[3] Further information available on http://www.a2i.gov.bd/content/e-purjee-digital-purchase-orders-sugarcane-farmers. Accessed on 15/06/2013

[4] See http://www.wa-agritrade.net/corp/index.htm for details. Accessed on 05/06/2014.

[5] See https://esoko.com/ for details.Accessed on 05/06/2014.

[6] See http://www.resimao.net/ for details. Accessed on 05/06/2014.

[7] See http://www.grameenfoundation.org/what-we-do/agriculture/community-knowledge-worker for details. Accessed on 05/06/2014.

[8] See http://www.grameenfoundation.org/ for details. Accessed on 05/06/2014.

[9] ‘JobMatch’ was developed and runs by Souktel. JobMatch is a   cell phone-based service that uses SMS and voice-menu technology to link young people with jobs and connect aid agencies with people who need help. SoukTel runs this services in Palestine, and helps partners run their own JobMatch services across Africa and the Middle East.

[10]TxtEagle is now re-branded and known as JANA. Find more at  http://www.jana.com/ . Accessed on 05/06/2014.

[11] See http://www.jana.com/marketplace/mcent/ for detail information. Accessed on 04/06/2014.

[12]See the study. Available at http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/resilience-in-the-wake-of-superstorm-sandy.aspx Accessed on 05/06/2014.

[13]See ‘The contribution of social bonds to resilience in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy’. Available at http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20130625-the-contribution-of-social-bonds-to-resilience-in-the-wake-of-superstorm-sandy Accessed on 05/06/2014.

[14] See https://www.airbnb.com/sandy for more. Accessed on 05/06/2014.

[15] See http://youtu.be/LJgRwdIGyRs for more. Accessed on 05/06/2014.

[16] See, ‘Peer-to-peer rental- The rise of the sharing economy’. Available at http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21573104-internet-everything-hire-rise-sharing-economy. Accessed on: 04/05/2014.

[17] BayShare is an organization in the San Francisco Bay Area whose mission is to make the Bay Area the best place for sharing. http://www.bayshare.org/ . Accessed on 05/06/2014.

[18]See ‘San Francisco’s Mayor Lee Launches Sharing Economy Partnership for Disaster Response’. Available at http://www.shareable.net/blog/san-francisco-mayor-launches-sharing-economy-partnership-for-disaster-response. Accessed on 05/06/2014.


Reference:

Bott, M., Gigler, B., and Young, G., 2014. The Role of Crowdsourcing for Better Governance in Fragile State Contexts. 2014 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank. 1818 H Street NW, Washington DC 20433.

Geron, T., 2013. Airbnb And The Unstoppable Rise Of The Share Economy. Availabale at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2013/01/23/airbnb-and-the-unstoppable-rise-of-the-share-economy/. Accessed on 05/06/2014

Halder,  B., 2013. Mobile-based Crowdsourcing Platform for Post-2015 Governance: Possibilities for Developing Countries available at http://www.negst.com.ng/documents/Governing_through_Networks/2-icegov2013_submission_15.pdf . Accessed on 03/06/2014.

Halder, B., 2014. Evolution of Crowdsourcing: Potential Data Protection, Privacy and Security Concerns under the New Media Age. In  Democracia Digital e Governo Eletrônico, Florianópolis, n° 10, p. 1-17, 2014. (forthcoming).

Livingston, S. L. 2010. “Africa’s Evolving Infosystems: A Pathway to Stability and Development.” Research Paper 2, Africa Research Center for Strategic Studies, Washington, DC.

Meier, P. 2013. Why the Share Economy is Important for Disaster Response and Resilience. Available at: http://irevolution.net/2013/07/15/share-economy-disaster-response/. Accessed on: 05/06/2014.

World Bank. 2012. Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile. Washington, DC: World Bank. DOI: 10.1596/978-0-8213-8991-1; http://www.worldbank.org/ict/IC4D2012. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0. pp 48-50, 84.

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