Rurality: Though a central issue in development, it’s too early for evidence about rural platform livelihoods. Systematic mappings and comparisons of urban and rural participation in platform economies remain scarce, and the customer base for local products and services, such as logistics, ride hailing, asset sharing, and MSMEs, to say nothing of creatives, may be growing outwards from urban areas. Direct evidence of participation in formal agricultural marketplaces and in social commerce/social agriculture also lags the evidence base in these other sectors.
One of the central challenges confronting digital development, and development in general, is the distribution of opportunity, inclusion, and growth in rural areas. There are a few mentions in the literature of opportunities in platform livelihoods for rural communities, particularly around microwork in India where there is some evidence of access/inclusion (Gupta et al. 2014; Gray and Suri 2019), and China, where the matter comes up only in passing, referencing (reminiscent of the element on betweenness) that some rural workers have access to insurance schemes that their urban compatriots do not (Chen et al. 2020). Yet Melia (2020) notes how even the online freelancer in Kenya can be found in a geographically co-located cluster in Nairobi, perhaps challenging the idea that freelance work knows no boundaries.
It’s probably fair to say that on this crosscutting issue, it is too early to tell. Systematic mappings and comparisons of urban and rural participation in platform economies remain scarce. Further, it is reasonable to expect that some of these business models for local products and services, such as logistics, ride hailing, asset sharing, and MSMEs, to say nothing of creatives, may be growing outward from urban areas with a higher density of higher-income customers, and greater access to ICT and financial services infrastructures. As we mention in the section on platform agriculture, direct evidence of participation in formal agricultural marketplaces and in social commerce/social agriculture also lags in terms of the evidence base.
That said, our literature review is in the initial stages—this is only the first iteration—so if you find studies specific to platform livelihoods and rural areas, please reach out to us so we might include it in the next version of the review.
Chen, Bin, Tao Liu, Lin Guo, and Zhenglin Xie. 2020. “The Disembedded Digital Economy: Social Protection for New Economy Employment in China.” Social Policy & Administration n/a (n/a). https://doi.org/10.1111/spol.12603.
Gray, Mary L, and Siddharth Suri. 2019. Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Gupta, Neha, David Martin, Benjamin V. Hanrahan, and Jacki O’Neill. 2014. “Turk-Life in India.” In Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Supporting Group Work – GROUP ’14, 1–11. Sanibel Island, Florida, USA: ACM Press. https://doi.org/10.1145/2660398.2660403.
Melia, Elvis. 2020. “African Jobs in the Digital Era: Export Options with a Focus on Online Labour.” Discussion Paper. https://doi.org/10.23661/DP3.2020.