Guest post by Nasubo Ongoma, Qhala Limited, email: nasubo.ongoma@qhala.com

Natasha, a woman driver receiving a client request on her phone in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo credit: Natasha (driver).

“Digital channels are actually the lifesaver when it comes to these challenges females face.”

- Lizzie, 24, freelancer and research participant

We are starting a new research project — and we’d like you to join us on the journey. Over the course of 2021, Qhala and Caribou Digital, with the support of the Mastercard Foundation, will work to understand the impact of COVID-19 on young women’s experiences working or selling through online platforms in Kenya.

Why this research now?

There is growing conversation on how platformization (broadly, the use of digital technologies to get work…


By: Research Team at Caribou Digital, in collaboration with Qhala, University of Ghana, Lagos Business School and Value for Women

In Kenya, the COVID-19 pandemic meant the genesis of new business lines, especially for home supplies and deliveries, and the slowed growth or shutdown of some businesses for luxury goods and travel. This ultimately impacted people’s livelihoods, especially women.

In Ghana, women, particularly those working in the informal economy, have been more adversely affected than men in terms of job and income losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Nigeria, COVID-19 has meant increased job losses, adversely affecting household livelihoods and…


Tensions and opportunities

Diagnostic is a series of essays and hosted conversations exploring the challenges of building more inclusive Digital economies. For hosted (virtual) conversations, like the one described below, Caribou Digital convenes a diverse set of experts and thought leaders with unique insights on an issue, and facilitates the exploration of a topic together.

For this conversation, we had 12 experts on women and platform work in emerging markets, ranging from those running platforms to donors, private sector, academia and advocacy. The conversation was under Chatham House rules so this is an edited summary of the key themes and not attributed to…


Ten overarching themes which emerged from this research

Savita Bailur and Hélène Smertnik

Cover page of our research report on Women, Work and ID

Digital identity — or as we prefer to call it at Caribou Digital, identification in a digital age — is often pursued from the supply side, in terms of increasing access to legal identification. We hear of SDG 16.9 (free and universal legal identity for all, including birth registration by 2030) and the commitment to serve the 1 billion people in the world without ID. Common use cases often mentioned for ID include access to education, healthcare and citizenship (e.g, voting). …


Savita Bailur and Hélène Smertnik

This blog is the first of five blogs on our work on children and the tension between identification and identity in a digital age. Other blogs include:

  • Identification, identity and sexuality for youth in Brazil
  • Financial inclusion, identification and identity for children in Kenya
  • Refugee identification and identity for children in Lebanon
  • Biometric identification and identity for children in Thailand

Children: Not being seen enough and being seen too much

What child has not at some stage felt embarrassed or complained about their baby pictures being shared? What about now, when parents post photographs of children on social media without their permission? When these photographs…


Savita Bailur, Cecília Peres, and Hélène Smertnik

This blog is one of five blogs on our work on children and the tension between identification and identity in a digital age. Other blogs include:

  • Identification and identity for children in a digital age
  • Financial inclusion, identification and identity for children in Kenya
  • Refugee identification and identity for children in Lebanon
  • Biometric identification and identity for children in Thailand
Bianca talking about her experience of identification and identity. Photo credit: S. Bailur.

“My national ID says my name is Rodrigo, but on my school card and Facebook, I have my social name — I am Bianca. I was told I couldn’t change my official name…


Experiences from Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya

By Caribou Digital

For the past six months, we’ve been working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on fascinating gender and DFS (digital financial services) research. The project originated as a gender-sensitive evaluation of the Level One Principles — a set of principles and features to ensure digital financial services are more inclusive.

In the process, our research unearthed women’s opinions and concerns about DFS more broadly. On International Women’s Day, and at a time when DFS are so key for women’s empowerment, we’d like to surface five emerging themes we observed in the fieldwork. …


Hélène Smertnik and Savita Bailur, Caribou Digital

“Before we didn’t have any freedom and respect. With an ID, I can work and get the money and freedom to spend for the family. I feel much better about it now that I am earning and it is not just my husband supporting us.” — Ruma, garment factory worker

In 2019, we conducted fieldwork in Dhaka, Bangladesh to understand the role of ID for women and work, with the support of Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and as part of the Commonwealth Digital Identity Initiative. …


By Hélène Smertnik and Savita Bailur, Caribou Digital

Following our research in Bangladesh, we conducted fieldwork in Sri Lanka to explore the role of ID in both enabling low-income women to access a wider variety of income generating opportunities and to retain and control their own income, as part of the Commonwealth Identity Initiative.

We spoke with more than 80 people (mostly women) in and around Colombo, including domestic workers, garment factory workers and online workers. We also interviewed employers in these three sectors and development experts.

This blog shares the summary of our research in Sri Lanka as well…


By Dr. Savita Bailur (Caribou Digital) Devina Srivastava (ID2020) and Hélène Smertnik (Caribou Digital)

Identity is a human right … a woman’s right …

“I think we women need Aadhaar more than men … it’s not just our identity, but we also need it to look after our family and children. I am the one who takes my daughters to the hospital, deals with their school. I am the one who will get the rations or get new gas cylinders. But they [the government] don’t think of any of this when they tell you it’s your job to get an Aadhaar card but don’t help you”

(Saguna, resident of “Garudahalli”…

Savita Bailur

Research Director at Caribou Digital; Adjunct Associate Prof at School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University http://www.savitabailur.com

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