The Role of Digital Work Platforms in Negotiating New Power Dynamics: Experiences from a Social Digital Skills Platform in South Africa


Raphael Kamanga (VASTBlu and FinChatBot)
Jeanna Matthews (Clarkson University)

Session: 1.2D: Investigating online communities

Abstract: Digital platforms can serve as a mediating agent between workers and employers, increasing the trust between parties previously unknown to each other. Platform developers also make many design decisions that have the potential to impact the power dynamics between workers and employers. We report on our experience with piloting a social digital platform, VASTBlu, that enables workers from 3 marginalized communities in Johannesburg to access work opportunities in the nearly mainstream economy in three township communities in Johannesburg, South Africa. We also explore the ways in which choices like symmetry of review between parties and frequency of review could be consciously chosen to change the power dynamics between parties in a digital work platform, reducing unfair practices in work activities and bringing increased power and dignity to workers.