Gig economy workers may soon own their platforms
Australia’s Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) has joined an international initiative to develop open-source technology for creating worker-owned gig economy platforms.
The BCCM will work with the global Platform Cooperativism Consortium on the development of the new Platform Co-Op Development Kit, which will allow aspiring co-operative workers to access software template and best legal practices to create their own sharing economies.
Google last month awarded the consortium with a $1 million grant to design open source tools that will support platform co-ops working in sectors such as childcare, elder care, home services and recycling.
BCCM CEO Melina Morrison noted that while popular gig economy platforms such as Uber, Deliveroo, Freelancer and Foodora neither own what they sell nor employ their suppliers, they take a cut of the profit because they own the rights to the technology used in the exchange.
Allowing workers or producers to own their own platform would enable them to keep the profits of their labour.
“Co-operatively owned platforms are needed urgently to address the power imbalance between the people who do the work on platforms and the owners of the platforms. Employee ownership and community ownership gives workers and communities the chance to harness technological changes to the local economy as players, not passive participants,” Morrison said.
“In areas like social care, platform co-ops deliver agency and empowerment for workers and high-quality and consistent services for consumers of disability and aged care. But their potential use is much more varied and wide.”
Development on the first stage of the platform development kit will commence next month. The partnership will then explore building out data services, job training, legal templates and consultancy services for emerging platform co-ops.
“By embedding the traditional co-operative principles of fairness and community in digital technology, the Platform Co-op Development Kit will seriously challenge the established players in the sharing economy. It will make it easier instead for Australian workers to become our newest entrepreneurs and start their own labour-sharing platforms.”
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