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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

World Bank says virtual economy provides $3bn jobs

The latest study by the World Bank Group’s Information Development (InfoDev) programme has shown that virtual online currencies and digital work now provide real income opportunities to poor and unskilled workers in developing countries.

ITRealms Online recalls that InfoDev is a global technology and innovation-led development finance programme of the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC).

The new study, Knowledge Map of the Virtual Economy, indicated that over 100,000 people in countries such as China and India currently earn a living through online games and websites disseminating micro-tasks.

A press statement from World Bank and IFC endorsed by Nadine Ghannam, showed that jobs in the virtual economy include micro-tasks like categorizing products in online shops, moderating content posted to social media sites, or even playing online games on behalf of wealthier players who are too busy to tend to their characters themselves.

“The study estimates that the market for such gaming-for-hire services was worth $3 billion in 2009, and it suggests that with suitable mobile technologies even the least-developed countries could benefit from this emerging virtual economy,” Ghannam said.

The Programme Manager of infoDev, Mr. Valerie D’Costa, was quoted as saying that developing countries’ roles in the digital world have been mostly limited to users and consumers, not producers. But today, a growing mesh of digital services is giving rise to a new layer of entrepreneurial opportunities with very low entry barriers.

Additionally, the infoDev’s Lead ICT Policy Specialist, Mr. Tim Kelly, said, some of the poorest people in the world are already connected to digital networks through their mobile phones.

“The study shows that there are real earning opportunities in the virtual economy that will become accessible as mobile technology develops. This could significantly boost local economies and support further development of digital infrastructure in regions such as Africa and southeast Asia,” he said.

Whereas the virtual economy unlocks a plethora of business opportunities, the report noted that not all these activities were viewed positively.

According to the infoDev study, certain business ventures and services offered may actually detract from the experience of other Internet users.

For example, harvesting and selling online gaming currencies or mass clicking ‘Like’ on corporate Facebook pages can create an unfair environment where legitimate game play and user opinion loses value and is represented inaccurately.

“Entrepreneurs should focus on digital micro-work that benefits society,” he said.

Examples include transcribing books, translating documents, and improving search-engine results,” said Dr. Vili Lehdonvirta, a researcher at Helsinki Institute for Information Technology and the main author of the study.

The World Bank Group is one of the world’s largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries. It comprises five closely associated institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA), which together form the World Bank; the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

Each institution plays a distinct role in the mission to fight poverty and improve living standards for people in the developing world.

Remmy Nweke:
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