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Digital Economy Research Impact Initiative

IDinsight, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has started a five-year initiative to study the digital economy and its welfare implications on gig workers using platforms that provide location-based services in three countries, India, Kenya, and Indonesia.

Decision-maker’s challenge

The exponential growth of digital economies in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) presents a promising opportunity for employment, development, and empowerment that benefits those in poverty. However, there is a clear lack of rigorous quantitative evidence on the extent to which low-income communities participate in digital platforms, the causal welfare impacts of platform expansion on low-income workers, and the effectiveness of targeted innovations to make digital platforms more inclusive, especially in LMICs.

Producing reliable evidence is urgent and critical for informing broader policy discussions. Such evidence is vital for regulators, policymakers, and philanthropic organizations, to help decision-makers navigate the complexity of the rapidly expanding digital economies in LMICs and to create evidence-based policies and programs that maximize the benefits for low-income communities.

Impact opportunity

The Digital Economy Research Impact Initiative aims to contribute to improving the welfare and well-being of gig workers from low-income communities by –

  1. Improving knowledge and advancing ideas through rigorous studies to shed light on the lives of gig workers by exploring the impact of digital platforms in LMICs. There is limited descriptive evidence on the characteristics of digital platform participants and many vital aspects such as age, gender composition, poverty profile, income, financial inclusion, experiences with the platform work, and dignity of their employment. Similarly, there is negligible evidence around the impact of digital platforms and additional service layers (such as financial training and financial services) on the welfare and economic well-being of gig workers
  2. Collaborating with key private sector players and policymakers to use reliable evidence to improve worker welfare outcomes
  3. Supporting philanthropic organisations in using evidence to reallocate resources and focus on areas of improvement in the gig economy

Our approach

The initiative has three key phases:

  1. The first phase (December 2022) focused on building private, public, and academic partnerships; consolidating existing evidence during this phase, we aimed to establish a network of experts to serve as advisors for the direction of the initiative. An advisory board composed of sector experts and academics was created to drive the initiative. 
  2. During the second phase (2023-2025), we will hone in on research questions and design in collaboration with our partners and conduct descriptive studies in the three regions. These descriptive studies will shape the agenda for the RCTs. 
  3. The third phase (2025-2028) will be dedicated to the execution of RCTs and other inferential research designs, some of which will be conducted in-house while others will be outsourced to external researchers. This phase will be devoted to the synthesis of findings and the dissemination of knowledge through publication in academic articles, reports, and conferences.

The results

IDinsight conducted an in-depth literature review on platform gig work. During this time, we also reached out to key private and public sector players, academics, and researchers in the field to deepen our understanding of the gig economy space and explore areas of collaboration in the three regions.

Read our published literature reviews:

For more information, please contact Sudhanshu Sharma at or Meg Battle at