A new study published by the World Bank Group‘s infoDev program and authored by Vili Lehdonvirta, called Knowledge Map of the Virtual Economy, says that the $3 billion global virtual economy brings over 100,000 jobs to developing countries like China and India. Poor and unskilled workers in these countries can easily perform digital labor that deals with performing repetitive “micro-tasks” or the virtual currency business. The World Bank operates the donor-funded infoDev program in partnership with the IFC.
“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,” said Tim Kelly, infoDev’s Lead ICT Policy Specialist, in a press statement.
Micro-tasks likely to be assigned to digital works in developing countries include categorizing products in online shops, moderating social media content, and playing online games on behalf of wealthier players. Many of these jobs are viewed as nuisances by Internet users, particularly jobs that involve gold farming, creating Twitter accounts to follow brands, or mass clicking on Facebook like buttons. Despite that, the report says that this labor market is worth $3 billion globally as of 2009.
Some of the jobs available in the digital market now exploit inequalities between the developed and developing worlds. Most virtual currency generated through gold farming business is purchased by players in North American and Europe, who are money-rich but time-poor. Other forms of digital work are purely beneficial to developing countries, like the Asian MMORPG market. Revenue generated by these games generally goes to developers and publishers in Southeast Asia.
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