This week sees the launch of a new initiative to equip unemployed and marginalized Kenyan youth with new digital skills to enable them to learn, work and to earn income using cryptocurrency.
The Digital Microwork project in Kibera connects young people at risk of hunger to an online microwork platform allowing them to earn income from machine learning jobs using cryptocurrency and e-wallets. For the project, WFP has partnered with machine learning company Corsali and blockchain technology firm Celo.
During a three-week pilot phase, 200 unemployed Kenyan youth have been trained to access digital microwork from global platforms on their smartphones. Using this app and the integrated digital wallet, pilot participants were able to earn an income from machine learning (ML) jobs and get paid using cryptocurrency and e-wallets. Participants are paid instantaneously using Celo dollars (cUSD), a global stablecoin pegged to the USD, and can cash-out anytime to M-Pesa.
Speaking during a media tour of the project in Kibera, Elisa Molena, Global Project Lead, WFP Innovation Accelerator said: “As the world is undergoing a massive shift towards remote working in times of COVID-19, we aim to level the playing field for marginalized youth in the labour market. Since its launch, we have connected participants to online freelance opportunities, helping them earn income to improve their livelihoods and support their families.”
As part of this initiative, Corsali developed a platform that makes digital microwork accessible and available on a mobile device. In addition, Celo’s blockchain technology offers a faster and more affordable means of payment relative to existing options, significantly reducing the transaction fees for bite-sized microwork.
“Our goal at Celo is to support an inclusive financial system that contributes to achieving prosperity for all,” said Angelo Kalaw, Partner for Research and Innovation at the Celo Foundation. “It is exciting to work with WFP and Corsali to empower local economies. Together, we are creating an inexpensive, fast, and scalable solution that combines digital microwork with integrated crypto-based micropayments.”
Research has indicated that the booming artificial intelligence (AI) data annotation industry is a potent source of jobs for communities with limited opportunities in the local job market, including informal sector workers. However, people who don’t have computers and the internet to complete digital microwork assignments cannot access this online marketplace. Moreover, many marginalized communities don’t have access to formal financial institutions and don’t have bank accounts to receive payments.