The introduction of and/or change in technology tools and city level technology systems can generate winners and losers across cities and countries, along value chains and across work sectors in the formal and informal economy. But how do these changes affect informal workers? How does it affect their livelihoods?

Man riding motorised trike with storage cart
Local innovators create bespoke carts for waste
collection in Lima, Peru

Global research

In 2015, Practical Action began an exploratory project to unearth the stories of change experiences by informal workers across 5 cities around the world: Lima, Nairobi, Dhaka, Ahmedabad, and Durban. The research, which will be completed in early 2016 and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, will explore the role technologies may play in creating or hindering work opportunities for poor urban workers and the emergence of more inclusive economies.

The research was carried out in partnership with WIEGOUniversity of Edinburgh Global Development Academy, University of Lima, University of NairobiUniversity of DhakaManchester University Global Urban Research Centre, and Mesopartner.

Technology trends

Through a combination of participatory research with informal workers at the city level, SenseMaker, and an examination of emergent trends and technologies at national and global levels, the Technology & Future of Work project aimed to unearth the stories and experiences of urban poor workers with technology and identify signals of change which may pose disruptive potential to livelihoods and work opportunities, while putting the voices, perspectives and experiences of poor urban workers at the heart of the research.

Working with Tirami, Practical Action developed a unique and pioneering technology trends aggregator tool, Udadisi, to enable improved analysis and understanding of global technology trends.

Explore the Udadisi technology trend tracker

Screenshot of Udadisi technology trend tracker tool

Inclusive economies

The research and analysis aims to inform the Rockefeller Foundation's inclusive economies work, and our own understandings of how poor people use and interact with changing technologies and work opportunities in urban centres. It will also help to inform workers in each city, supporting them to craft improved livelihood strategies to grasp emerging opportunities, and mitigate negative impacts of technology change.

Funded by:

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Technology and the Future of Work publications

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Dhaka’s Unseen Green: An Analysis of the Roles and Opportunities of Informal Waste Pickers

Waste pickers are the men, women, and children all over the world who rely on rubbish for their survival. Operating across dynamic and generally informal networks, waste pickers collect, transport,...

 
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Understanding Urban Poverty: The Economics of Technology Change in Vending Agricultural Products in Peru.

In seeking to understand urban poverty through the lens of technology change and its impact on informal sectors, this paper discusses the field research carried out on street vendors of agricultural...

 
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Tapping into Informality: the suitability of MajiVoice as a tool to improve water service delivery and governance in Nairobi’s informal settlements

The promotion of electronic participation, or eParticipation, via mobile phones has grown in popularity within the Global South as a method for providing a platform for previously under-represented...

 
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Literature Review: Technology and the Future of Work

In cities across the globe, technologies are driving disruptions of informal and formal economies and shaping how workers interact with them. The disruptive impact of technologies is complex, can be...

 
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Technology and the Future of Work

Through a year-long project, Practical Action and WIEGO have explored the technologies, cities, work and systems that influence the disruptive impact of technologies on informal workers. The...

 
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Technology and the Future of Work: Experiences of informal waste workers and street vendors in Dhaka, Lima, and Nairobi

The role and importance of technology in informal work opportunities and livelihoods is little understood or explored. Technology can be a great enabler, helping people to do more, better. But it...

 

Technology and the Future of Work blogs

  • Role of women waste pickers in Dhaka
    Beneath the glaring afternoon sun, I watch as a woman crouches roadside at the base of a city garbage container, referred to as a “dustbin”. Using her unprotected hands, she dutifully sorts through the waste, separating out non-perishable items of value such as plastic, paper, and glass. These items are placed in a woven basket to be sold to a local scrap shop and then recycled. She is considered a “tokai”- a waste picker. She is one of the estimated […]
  • Waste and recycling: health concerns herald technology change
    Waste recyclers in Lima, the capital of Peru, have overcome tremendous adversities to function as a recognised and legitimate sector. When they had started to pick waste around the city, they were branded ‘nut cases’ or drug addicts and were sometimes chased away by the police when foraging for recyclables. This presented a social challenge since they became a marginalized group. After unionizing and pursuing their labour rights, the Peruvian government passed the ‘Law of the Recycler’ in 2009- the […]
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