Reflections: Towards more inclusive platform livelihoods

This essay synthesizes the main findings from the studies by InABLE, Technoprise Global, and Story x Design and offers Caribou Digital’s reflections, connecting the findings to the broader trend of platform livelihoods, addressing implications both specifically for young people with disabilities in Kenya, as well as for the shift to platform livelihoods more broadly. 

These five core reflections are:

  • Individual profiles hide critical collaborations and the need for human assistance.
  • Sellers often start, and often stay, with social commerce.
  • It’s a challenge to balance privacy and disclosure, a possible opportunity for more inclusive design by e-commerce platforms.
  • The intersections of gender, disability, and platform work remain open and urge new questions. And
  • It may be time to see platforms not just as sales channels, but also as workplaces.

That said these studies are preliminary and generate as many questions as answers. As such, the essay identifies several paths ahead:

  • Platform businesses can explore co-design with users living with disabilities, and, separately, might look at ways to partner with logistics and finance companies to facilitate offline delivery of goods and services purchased online. 
  • On the policy side, it is premature to suggest sweeping policy changes based on a few exploratory studies. However, given this set of unique and common challenges, experiences, and opportunities, there does seem to be an opportunity to explore how to support youth with disabilities to take full advantage of formal marketplace sales and gig work platforms—beyond the informal social selling we observed in this study.
  • For researchers, there is a key need to replicate in other markets, and to pursue more representative samples or workers and sellers, including who had tried unsuccessfully to earn a living online, and those who had exited for various reasons
  • And, in the short term, there is an opportunity to extend successful ‘onboarding’ training. We can envision the development of a corpus of “platform sales skills” as configured especially for people with disabilities. It would cover many of the common challenges facing all platform workers and sellers, as well as insights (in tools and practices) specific to those with the same or similar disabilities.

It was a great privilege to work with our partners inABLE, Technoprise, and Story x Design. Hearing the stories of so many young Kenyans with disabilities and the livelihood opportunities they find online gave us the opportunity to reflect deeply, not only about inclusion for each of them, but also for the whole idea of platform-mediated work and livelihoods. We are grateful, and confident that the work will continue.

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