TxtEagle, started in its original form in 2008 by a young computer engineer named Nathan Eagle, and now based in Boston U.S., has 10,000 people working for it in Kenya.
Txteagle does not rent office space for these workers, nor do the company’s officers interview them, or ever talk to most of them.
The jobs - short stretches of speech to be transcribed or translated into a local dialect, search engine results to be checked, images to be labeled, short market research surveys to be completed - come in over a worker’s own cellphone and the worker responds either by speaking into the phone or texting back the answer. The workers can be anyone with a cellphone - a secretary waiting for a bus, a Masai tribesman herding cattle, a student between classes, a security guard on a slow day, or one of Kenya’s tens of millions of unemployed. The jobs take at most a few minutes and pay a few cents each (payment is sent by cellphone as well), but a dedicated worker can earn a few dollars a day in a part of the world where that is a significant sum.
Two issues here: One exciting, one cautionary...
This is another example of the mobile as a source of work through crowdsourcing. This has to be applauded and investigated further by other companies. This is the exciting bit.
The cautionary part of the story is the pay rates. There has to be a commitment by each company going down this route to abide by standards of pay and protection that employees in other areas of work have.