Mark Graham and colleagues from the Oxford Internet Institute are leading a bold attempt to improve the quality of gig-work through the establishment of a ‘Fair Work Foundation’.
This piece of action research is deceptively simple. In order to highlight best and worst practices in the emerging platform economy, the researchers worked with various stakeholders to develop a set of 5 ‘fair work’ principles. These included issues such as good levels of pay, written contracts and working conditions.
These principles were then used to provide an annual ranking score out of 10 for prominent gig-work and micro-work platforms in various countries. Each principle could merit a basic point and an advanced point. Only positive points were awarded, meaning that platforms were being rewarded for good practice.
This allowed for the production of country-specific ‘league tables’ and the award of certification and kite-marks for high-scoring platforms. These tactics have since opened up dialogues with platforms keen to improve their scores, and amongst workers and unions in terms of what rights they might reasonably expect.
This model would make an excellent starting-point for our own participatory workshops with groups of students and teachers in school. Groups could be supported in identifying five global ‘data smart’ principles that students and/or teachers consider important (for example, clear statements on data privacy, limited/no sharing of data with for-profit third parties, ability to opt-out of data sharing, and so on).
Rating the main apps and platforms used within a school could then open up dialogue within school communities about the types of software they want to be using within the school – and what alternatives might be available to replace low-scoring (and therefore unacceptable) products.
If our workshop groups can produce a robust set of principles, then there is no reason why these cannot be shared widely – allowing students and teachers around the world to engage in similar data audits that can provoke conversations about the digital data conditions in their own schools.