Richard Heeks

Richard Heeks
The University of Manchester · Centre for Digital Development (CDD)

MA, MPhil, PhD

About

373
Publications
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Publications

Publications (373)
Article
This paper applies insights from global value chains (GVC)/global production networks (GPN) frameworks to explore the economic geographies brought into being by digital labour platforms. In particular, these perspectives facilitate analyses of power imbalances and value extraction across territories—an under-theorized aspect within platform studies...
Article
The positive deviance approach in international development scales practices and strategies of positively-deviant individuals and groups: those who are able to achieve significantly better development outcomes than their peers despite having similar resources and challenges. This approach relies mainly on traditional data sources (e.g. surveys and...
Chapter
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In this chapter, we first introduce the Fairwork project, discussing its conception, the underlying theory of change and the methodology used to score gig economy platforms. The bulk of the chapter consists of four Global South country case studies where the Fairwork project was applied: Chile, South Africa, Indonesia and Ecuador. For each country,...
Article
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Research and development are central to economic growth, and a key challenge for countries of the global South is that their research performance lags behind that of the global North. Yet, among Southern researchers, a few significantly outperform their peers and can be styled research “positive deviants” (PDs). In this paper we ask: who are those...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The third Fairwork report for South Africa continues to chart the evolution of the national gig economy. In South Africa, digital labour platforms hold the potential to reduce the extremely high unemployment and inequality. However, the annual South African Fairwork ratings provide evidence that platform workers, as in so many countries worldwide,...
Article
Institutional voids – shortcomings in the institutional functions required by markets – have particularly hampered developing countries. Filling those voids has been widely identified as a strategy for businesses and in this paper we analyse the institutional actions of digital platform companies. Specifically and through primary research, we analy...
Preprint
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The connection between digital and inequality has traditionally been understood in terms of the digital divide or of forms of digital inequality whose core conceptualisation is exclusion. This paper argues that, as the global South moves into a digital development paradigm of growing breadth and depth of digital engagement, an exclusion worldview i...
Preprint
Full-text available
Digital technologies are becoming central to water governance and management, yet their impact and developmental implications are under-researched, particularly in the global South. This paper addresses this knowledge gap by examining the process of water service digitalisation and the resulting effects on service providers. Drawing on qualitative...
Research
Full-text available
The connection between digital and inequality has traditionally been understood in terms of the digital divide or of forms of digital inequality whose core conceptualisation is exclusion. This paper argues that, as the global South moves into a digital development paradigm of growing breadth and depth of digital engagement, an exclusion worldview i...
Article
Digital labour platforms have been widely promoted as a solution to the unemployment crisis sparked by the COVID‐19 pandemic. However, the pandemic has also highlighted the harms to gig workers—who are exposed either to income loss, or to infection while carrying out essential work, but excluded from labour protections. We examine the COVID‐19 poli...
Article
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Increasing implementation of digital water innovations in cities of the Global South has been accompanied by a growth in research on this topic. This paper presents a first systematic literature review of this domain, analysing a total of 43 papers using a range of thematic categorisations. Overall profiling finds literature to be recent, limited i...
Chapter
Digital technologies are becoming central to water governance and management, yet their impact and developmental implications are under-researched, particularly in the global South. This paper addresses this knowledge gap by examining the process of water service digitalisation and the resulting effects on service providers. In this paper, we apply...
Article
Digital platforms play an increasing role across socio-economic sectors in developing countries yet development research to date on this topic has been limited and under-conceptualised. To help facilitate such research in future, this paper presents and applies the “multi-level perspective” as a framework to understand platforms in development as s...
Research
Full-text available
Marginalised urban communities need to build their resilience to environmental and social shocks and stressors. A first step in this process will be measuring the existing resilience strengths and weaknesses of such communities. Past approaches to this can appear constrained in their understanding of resilience, or may not convert resilience framew...
Article
Purpose While digital labour platforms are being increasingly studied across the Global South, the existing literature does not conceptualise the theoretical link between such platforms and socio-economic development. This paper theorises such a link drawing on the notion of institutional voids defined, as in Khanna and Palepu (2010), as “the absen...
Chapter
Full-text available
We are living in a time of unprecedented human displacement both within countries and across international borders. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) notes that the number of displaced populations are on the rise, both internationally and within individual countries, with this resulting in a wide range of significant interna...
Technical Report
Full-text available
As the scale and scope of work mediated by digital platforms has grown in India, so has the number of workers registering on such platforms. This rapid growth has also raised questions about the work conditions that result from digital mediation. Platform workers are predominantly paid per task and are typically classified by the platforms as “inde...
Research
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Growing broadband connectivity is central to development strategies of all countries. Thus measurement of that connectivity and associated broadband divides is an essential foundation for telecommunications and digital policy. Yet traditional broadband measures face challenges of data completeness, accuracy, relevance, timeliness and accessibility....
Research
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Cities in the global South are being “datafied”, with increasing presence of digital data of all kinds: from mobile phones, remote sensing, ground-level sensors, community mapping, etc. This has created growing interest in “data justice” in urban locations: the way in which data intersects with questions of social justice – who wins and who loses f...
Article
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Context is a key mediator of the relation between digital and development, including digital enterprise and development. Yet this mediation is little-understood in terms of contextual embeddedness. To address this gap, we analyse field evidence on digital start-ups in Latin America’s four largest economies using the Triple Embeddedness Framework (T...
Article
Full-text available
Fast growth of the gig economy in the global South has brought with it both hopes and concerns about this new form of digitally-enabled employment. Relatively little work has so far looked at the risks of such work; risks shaped by the particular context of developing countries. This paper undertakes an inductive, interpretive study of risks endure...
Article
Full-text available
COVID-19 accentuates the case for a global, rather than an international, development paradigm. The novel disease is a prime example of a development challenge for all countries, through the failure of public health as a global public good. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the falsity of any assumption that the global North has all the experti...
Chapter
Fast growth of the gig economy in the global South has brought with it both hopes and concerns about this new form of digitally-enabled employment. Relatively little work has so far looked at the risks of such work; risks shaped by the particular context of developing countries. This paper undertakes an inductive, interpretive study of risks endure...
Research
Full-text available
The impact of platforms in the global South is under-researched. This paper analyses the role of platforms in relation to “institutional voids”: absences or shortcomings of formal institutions that can create shortfalls in the operation of markets. Through a mix of primary and secondary research, this paper studies gig economy platforms like Uber a...
Research
Full-text available
Platform work, also known as gig work, is a fast-growing trend, estimated to involve up to 40 million workers in the global South. Celebrated in some quarters, growth of the gig economy has also been a cause for concern about the nature of jobs being created. Yet, while it is the focus for a growing body of research, there has been a lack of system...
Article
Full-text available
This paper introduces the Fairwork Foundation, a research initiative that is also developing an intervention around the quality of work on digital labour platforms. Lacking the ability to collectively bargain, many platform workers have little ability to negotiate wages or working conditions with their employers. As a result of this new, digitally-...
Research
Full-text available
Agriculture remains the dominant sector for rural areas in developing countries. However, short-term shocks (e.g. conflict, economic crisis) and long-term trends (e.g. climate change) hamper and can even reverse attempted gains in agricultural productivity and related rural development outcomes. Influenced by the current sustainable development par...
Article
There is evidence of “ICT4D 3.0”: a new “digital‐for‐development” paradigm emerging in the relationship between digital technologies and international development. Part 1 of this paper looked at the component parts of that paradigm. Part 2, provided here, analyses the impact of the paradigm on development. It does this by looking for big‐picture pa...
Article
What has changed in the decade or so since the ideas of a new “ICT4D 2.0” phase were first mooted? This paper reviews those changes, based on a new framework model. At a foundational level, it looks at recent and current trends in digital technologies, data, processes and the implications these have for the user demographics and network structures...
Article
Full-text available
There are growing numbers of business—development hybrids that combine a commercial orientation with an intent to deliver development goals. Yet, within development studies research to date, there has been limited conceptualization of these organizations. Borrowing from the extensive literature in other disciplines, this paper argues that the conce...
Article
Full-text available
Motivation Datafication – growing presence, use and impact of data in social processes – is spreading to all sectors in developing countries. But, to date, there are few analyses of real‐world experiences of datafication in developing country organisations. Purpose We address this knowledge gap by analysing evidence of big data in practice in rela...
Article
Full-text available
The role of data within international development is rapidly expanding. However, the recency of this phenomenon means analysis has been lagging; particularly, analysis of broader impacts of real-world initiatives. Addressing this gap through a focus on data’s increasing presence in urban development, this paper makes two contributions. First – draw...
Chapter
Full-text available
ICT4D research is strongly oriented to practice but hardly ever explicitly uses the research paradigm of pragmatism. We argue that, though highly-relevant to ICT4D, pragmatism suffers some shortcomings in terms of its philosophy of the world, explanatory power, truth-testing, and values. We suggest that “pragmatist-critical realism” – a novel resea...
Chapter
Full-text available
The purpose of this paper is to bridge the knowledge gap on how new technology, like online platforms can help people with disabilities (PWD’s) improve their capabilities.
Chapter
Growth of digital platforms in developing countries has yet to see equivalent growth in research. This paper presents one of the first conceptualised analyses of platform implementation and impact. Using the “multi-level perspective”, it analyses a successful ride-hailing platform: EasyTaxi in Bogotá, Colombia. This was originally a niche innovatio...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The purpose of this paper is to bridge the knowledge gap on how digital inclusion initiative can help people with disabilities (PWD's) into employment, and improve their capabilities. We adopt a qualitative case study from the Philippines. Data is analysed through the lens of Amartya Sen's capability approach (CA). Interview and ethnographic data p...
Article
Full-text available
Resilience—the ability of systems to cope with external shocks and trends—is a topic of increasing interest to research and practice. That growing interest is reflected within information systems (IS), but a structured review of IS literature shows a number of knowledge gaps around the conceptual and empirical application of resilience. This paper...
Chapter
Impact sourcing focuses on training and hiring people who would otherwise not be able to land a job in the outsourcing business. The Philippine Government has initiated a training program to prepare people for online freelancing in socio-economically disadvantaged areas in the country.
Article
Full-text available
Positive deviance is a growing approach in international development that identifies those within a population who are outperforming their peers in some way, eg, children in low‐income families who are well nourished when those around them are not. Analysing and then disseminating the behaviours and other factors underpinning positive deviance are...
Article
There is little overt engagement with research paradigms in ICT4D research, but what there is shows a dominance of positivism and interpretivism. In this paper, we explore the value of a “third way” research paradigm: critical realism. We concisely review the main features of critical realism: its ontological realism combined with epistemological r...
Article
Full-text available
The digital economy is growing fast, especially in developing countries. Yet the meaning and metrics of the digital economy are both limited and divergent. The aim of this paper is to review what is currently known in order to develop a definition of the digital economy, and an estimate of its size. The paper argues there are three scopes of releva...
Research
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As cities grow, urban transportation is becoming an issue of increasing salience. Simultaneously, big data systems are being introduced into urban transport. This paper analyses the early days of the big data system introduced by India’s Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation, which runs the city’s 6,000-plus buses. This has three main compon...
Research
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Online outsourcing involves outsourcing of tasks from clients to workers all over the world via digital platforms like Upwork, Freelancer and Fiverr. Millions of workers in developing countries are already involved, and governments and donor agencies are starting online outsourcing initiatives that try to offer access to these digital livelihoods t...
Research
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This short Strategy Brief provides guidance on the why and what of digital economy policy in developing countries: why are strategic interventions needed to develop digital economies in the global South; and what interventions are needed.
Research
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This short paper summarises the research agenda emerging from the work of the “Development Implications of Digital Economies” (DIODE) Strategic Research Network, which was funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund.
Article
The application of information and communication technologies to socio‐economic development (ICT4D) is a complex sociotechnical phenomenon. That complexity has led to repeated calls for diversification in the theories, methodologies, and methods used in this field. This paper investigates one potential diversification: the use of social network ana...
Research
Full-text available
The digital economy – that part of economic output derived solely or primarily from digital technologies with a business model based on digital goods or services – is of increasing importance to developing countries. Yet digital economy reality is undershooting its potential in these countries, due to a series of challenges. Digital infrastructure...
Article
Full-text available
Level of development of digital economy policy and governance varies widely within countries of the global South. One country in which it has been significantly developed is Thailand, which has both dedicated policies and governance structures for the digital economy. This paper provides a largely descriptive overview of these. It reviews the curre...
Research
Full-text available
This paper presents a review of current evidence and ideas relating to the digital gig economy (DGE): contingent (task- or project-based) intangible work delivered digitally and done for money, organised via online outsourcing platforms that are marketplaces bringing together buyers and sellers. Examples of such platforms include Freelancer, Upwork...
Research
Full-text available
There is debate about the extent to which digital activity is embedded or disembedded from various aspects of its context including place, institutions and networks. Yet little research has so far been conducted on this issue in relation to digital enterprises, particularly those in developing countries. Because of the growing importance of the dig...
Research
Full-text available
This paper presents exploratory research into “data-intensive development” that seeks to inductively identify issues and conceptual frameworks of relevance to big data in developing countries. It presents a case study of big data innovations in “Stelcorp”; a state electricity corporation in India. In an attempt to address losses in electricity dist...
Research
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Confused about the gig economy vs. platform economy vs. on-demand economy? Befuddled by online labour vs. digital labour vs. platform labour? Bemused by microwork vs. crowdwork vs. digital work? Then read on. This paper analyses the myriad terminologies that have arisen in relation to the digital economy and digital labour. In detailed tables, it a...
Research
Full-text available
With growing use of data in international development, there is growing interest in data justice. One argument is that this must best be understood in terms of structural data justice (SDJ): the degree to which society contains and supports the data-related institutions, relations and knowledge systems necessary for realisation of the values compri...
Conference Paper
Where do ICT4D champions come from? The paper explores this question because, as is demonstrated from literature, knowledge and understanding about the origins of champions are insufficient, yet these individuals are known for their decisive contributions to ICT4D initiatives. An empirical exploration of the origins of three ICT4D champions is repo...
Conference Paper
There is little overt engagement with research paradigms in ICT4D research but what there is shows a dominance of positivism and interpretivism. In this paper we explore the value of a “third way” research paradigm: critical realism. We concisely review the main features of critical realism: its ontological realism combined with epistemological rel...
Conference Paper
Online outsourcing (OO) involves global outsourcing of tasks from clients to freelancers via platforms such as Upwork, Guru, Freelancer and Fiverr. Governments and donor agencies in several developing countries are currently starting OO training initiatives to enable access to digital livelihoods for marginalised groups such as youth and women. How...
Article
Full-text available
Enabled by ICTs and digital fabrication tools such as 3D printing, and facilitated by shared workspaces such as makerspaces and FabLabs, digital innovation and fabrication networks (DIFNs) are emerging globally. To open the debate on this nascent phenomenon in the global South, this paper examines the current state of knowledge and offers future re...
Article
Full-text available
Promotion and presence of partnerships have been growing within information and communication technology for development (ICT4D). Yet – despite limited analytical literature on this topic – it is clear that the reality of ICT4D partnerships often undershoots the potential, with frequent reports of failure, particularly arising from conflict between...