Professor Mark Graham’s Fairwork research awarded two new grants

Mark Graham chats with colleagues at a long conference table during a research workshop in Geneva

Professor Mark Graham, Senior Research Fellow of Green Templeton College and Professor of Internet Geography at the Oxford Internet Institute, has been awarded two grants for his research into improving fairness in the digital gig economy.

He has received an 18-month European Research Council Proof of Concept grant to fund a UK and Germany implementation of the Fairwork project, which seeks to improve the welfare and job quality of platform workers in the digital economy.

Mark has also secured an OX-BER Research Partnership Seed Grant, alongside Dr Maren Borkert from Technische Universität Berlin.

Mark is Director of the Fairwork Foundation, established by the Oxford Internet Institute. Along with his collaborator Jamie Woodcock, a researcher at the OII, he is examining the ‘invisible labour’ of 70 million global workers employed via digital platforms or apps.

While such platforms can provide essential income and opportunities to many workers, some don’t have the ability to collectively bargain when it comes to wages or working conditions, and their employers are often on the other side of the world.

The international nature of some digital platform work also means these jobs can fall outside the scope of national governments and local regulations.

The team’s research aims to implement a long-term strategy to contribute to the welfare and job quality of digital platform workers, and certify the production networks within the digital gig economy, much like the Fairtrade Foundation has certified the origins and production chains of certain products.

It has developed principles about pay, working conditions, contracts, governance and representation of workers, to highlight the best and worst practices within the rapidly expanding digital platform economy, and provide the framework for a new Fairwork Foundation strategy.

The team have chosen South Africa and India as the countries to pilot their Fairwork project; in both countries, workers who choose to work on platforms are not necessarily covered by existing employment protections.

Meetings in Johannesburg (a joint workshop with Research ICT Africa) and Bangalore (organised jointly with International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore) in July discussed how the principles of the Fairwork project could be applied to the local contexts of South Africa and India, and sought input from key stakeholders.

The team’s next steps are to begin in-country case studies and test their principles in practice.

Read more about the South Africa and India pilot schemes here.

The Fairwork project team also includes:

  • Sandra Fredman, University of Oxford
  • Dr Paul Mungai, University of Cape Town
  • Richard Heeks, University of Manchester
  • Darcy Du Toit, University of the Western Cape
  • Jean-Paul Van Belle, University of Cape Town
  • Abigail Osiki, University of Cape Town

Mark Graham is Senior Research Fellow at Green Templeton College; Professor of Internet Geography at the Oxford Internet Institute; Director of the Fairwork Foundation; a Faculty Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute; and an Associate in the University of Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment.

The OX-BER Research Partnership Seed Grant was announced by the University of Oxford in December 2017. It is a joint partnership between the University and four institutions in Berlin: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin and Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

Proposals had to be jointly submitted by at least one faculty member from an academic division of the University of Oxford and at least one faculty member from one of the four Berlin partners.

Picture: A workshop run by the Fairwork Foundation at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva, Switzerland in April 2018.

Created: 20 December 2018