The world's largest workforce is ready, willing, and able

Nathan Eagle

Consider this: The ratio of mobile phone subscribers in the developing world to the developed world is 4:1. It’s a democratized platform since there’s no single demographic that owns a mobile phone. As Nathan Eagle, visiting assistant professor at MIT and research assistant professor at Northeastern University, explains, manual laborers in Africa, like the guys who dig ditches, are organizing and finding work through SMS. You need a phone to be part of the system.

Nathan Eagle

But with 3 billion mobile phone users and 1.5 billion unemployed people, is there a way to harness mobile technology to provide work for the un- or under-employed? Is there a way to crowdsource tasks, monetize idle time, and easily compensate workers at the same time?

Kicking off in Africa, Nathan Eagle created txteagle to enable people in developing countries to earn money or airtime by performing tasks via their mobile phone. Some of the work is outsourced, like video tagging, invoice processing, or audio transcribing, but Eagle hopes that the majority of the jobs will become those that depend on more knowledge, allowing people to be close to home.

Thus far, txteagle has been integrated into the billing systems of 220 mobile phone operators in Africa, reaching 2.1 billion phones. This means txteagle can compensate all of these 2.1 billion people, empowering the largest workforce on earth. Next up: txteagle is looking for more crowdsourced, locally-focused, projects to give this massive community the opportunity to improve its economic status.

(Top photo: Kris Krüg. Bottom: Thatcher Hullerman Cook)

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