The Future of the Digital Platforms

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The latest instalment of ILMU HASANAH: “The Future of the Digital Platforms, was delivered in collaboration with Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) on 29th July 2021. This knowledge session was in conjunction with the launch of KRI’s #NetworkedNation report. Anita Ahmad, Head of Community Development of Yayasan Hasanah, moderated the discussion featuring valuable insights from:  

  1. Dr Rachel Gong, Senior Research Associate (Khazanah Research Institute)
  2. Shareen Shariza Dato’ Abdul Ghani, Co-founder (GigxGlobal)
  3. Francesca Chia, Co-founder (GoGet.my)
  4. Mohd Redzuan Affandi Abdul Rahim, Director of Sharing Economy Development Department (Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation)

Attended by 80 participants, the session discussed the current landscape of digital platforms which come with emerging issues concerning the wellbeing of their workers. Dr. Rachel presented the findings from #NetworkedNation, while offering commonalities and differences of seemingly overlapping definitions of platform economy, gig economy and sharing economy. As technology intermediary gaining traction and more Malaysians use digital platforms to perform digital work, digitally-enabled work or digital microtask, there is a need for proactive multi-stakeholder approaches in ensuring equitable opportunities and protections for all workers.

High-value talent for local & global market

More professionals have migrated to digital space due to higher opportunities, flexibility and increasing demand from companies. With the practice of having multiple jobs is the new norm, coupled with good digital connectivity, local talents can offer their expertise at local and global market. MNCs and SMEs in Malaysia are now more accepting to employ digital workers.  However, limited skills upgrading opportunities for low-skilled workers hinder their potential to become more competitive in the job market.

Addressing the vulnerabilities of digital platform workers

The contractual nature of digital platform work indicates that there is a lack of social protection in terms of insurance, minimum wage, and safety nets. The inequality in conventional labor market translated to digital space, affecting mostly the workers who are hired for micro-tasks with lack of physical, emotional, and occupational supports. To address this, the panellists shared how their platforms had worked with insurance companies and PERKESO to provide safety nets for their workers. There were also cases in which people were scammed when looking for work in the digital space, thus platform verification, proper contract or employer review also serve to ensure safe space for digital platform workers. These measures are more important as KRI, through its research, found that micro-task platform workers in Malaysia tend to be young women without degrees.

Inclusivity and purpose-driven business models as the way forward 

All panelists agreed that the precariousness of digital platform work calls for higher inclusivity and purpose-driven business models. As such, platforms that are developed and led by women or marginalized groups can be sustained with the right ecosystem support and long-term advisory. Another recommendation was to establish collective bargaining groups that are not platform-specific, which can fight for platform workers’ rights. Social-enterprise or cooperatively owned digital platforms also was also advocated in the session as the potential model to improve social protection of the digital platform workers. 

The full recording of this ILMU HASANAH session can be viewed here