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08 April 2022

Research sprint: “Sustainable digital economies”

Eine einzigartige Gelegenheit, die Plattformökonomie von morgen zu gestalten und Teil einer wissenschaftlichen Gemeinschaft zu werden.

Digital platforms have become the defining ecosystems for economic activity in the 21st century. On two-sided markets, they mediate between buyers and sellers of digital work or enable novel business for digital entrepreneurs. At the same time, they amplify existing polarisation of skills and economic resources and call for new regulatory measures in an increasingly uneven digital economy. Both the perks and perils of the digital platform economy are distinctly visible in regions on the economic development pathway, like many economies in sub-Saharan Africa. How can platform work in sub-Saharan Africa be shaped sustainably? What role does fairness play in regulation and the exchange between different interest groups? These are just some of the many pressing questions related to platform economy and regulation, which we will address in an interdisciplinary research sprint with exciting structures for policy impact (both public and private).

For our project Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Global Digital Transformation (SET), we are now inviting applications from interested researchers with diverse academic backgrounds (economics, law, political science and related fields) to join a

Research Sprint on “Sustainable Digital Economies” 

taking place from 30 May 2022 to 15 July 2022 virtually, with a closing week onsite in Ghana. Main partners of the project are the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG), the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the Digital Transformation Centre Ghana. 

About the research sprint

The research sprint will address two central aspects and levels of the digital platform economy: skill polarisation in a future of remote work and local regulation of platform work. The findings and results of the research sprint will be integrated into local activities of the Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Global Digital Transformation (SET) project in Ghana and Kenya such as a multi-stakeholder dialogue, a large-scale study on skill polarisation in online labour markets and a study on regulation of digital platforms in sub-Saharan Africa. The research sprint will be conducted with two working groups, each of which will focus on one of the two central topics. One of the teams will look into data sets about online labour markets in Ghana and Kenya and will support this data with qualitative research on the workers’ perspective. A second team will conduct a policy and literature review on existing research about different regulatory approaches to platform work in sub-Saharan Africa with a local focus on Kenya. 

With the innovative format of a research sprint we want to enable applied research on current societal challenges in the setting of the sub-Saharan digital platform economy. 

Goals of the research sprint  

  • Build an international knowledge community around the topic of platform mediated work
  • Connect international researchers and foster the impact of their research
  • Provide up-to-date research and data for policy makers and other stakeholders 
  • Inform discussion with stakeholders 
  • Showcase and foster the local capacity for digital policy making and regulation in the digital economy (ideas from the region for the region) 

What we offer 

  • A unique opportunity to participate in a focused research activity and to conduct cutting-edge interdisciplinary research with outstanding international colleagues
  • International visibility and collaboration with our partners GIZ and the Digital Transformation Centre in Ghana
  • Support and guidance from a dedicated team of researchers at the HIIG and beyond
  • A joint publication or other output format – the format will be determined by the group of participants
  • You become part of an interdisciplinary community of researchers dedicated to platform governance and benefit from perspective of economics, law, and political sciences

What we expect

  • Proven interest in the topic of sustainable digital economies and relevant research experience in one of the mentioned disciplines
  • Appropriate academic qualifications
  • Fluency in English
  • Commitment to take part in recurring virtual sessions. (The estimated amount of time you can ideally dedicate is ten to twenty hours a week, depending on your capacities. The schedule will be developed together with the participants.)
  • Motivation to produce research outputs within the time of the sprint and to contribute to a joint publication or alternative research output

Things to consider

The sprint is offered virtually. Participants of the research sprint have the opportunity to participate at a closing week and a multi-stakeholder dialogue onsite in Ghana, if they are fully vaccinated, according to the current travel restrictions in Ghana. There is a travel fund that allows us to refund a limited amount of travel expenses.

Time Frame: The sprint takes place from 30 May 2022 to 15 July 2022
The closing week in Ghana takes place from 18 July to 22 July 2022

Financial Issues: Travel costs to non-virtual events can be covered in consultation with HIIG 

Application documents

  • Up-to-date curriculum vitae in English
  • Motivation letter explaining your interest in the research sprint, your research background, and your expectations, as well as a quick outline of what problem of platform governance you would like to address (1 page in English). Specifically, please indicate which of the two working groups you are interested in: 
    • A) How can platform architecture, e.g. recommendation and reputation mechanisms, be changed to make platform work more inclusive?
    • B) How can platform workers be helped to find and learn marketable skills to improve their economic outlook?
  • Optional: one writing or work sample covering the topic (in English or German)

Please upload your application by May 1 2022.

Christian Grauvogel

Ehem. Leiter Dialog und Wissenstransfer | Projektkoordinator SET

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