A framework to help uncover trends

Around the world, people and small businesses are working and selling in new ways, using digital platforms. News reports, heated policy debates, and perhaps especially our daily interactions with gig workers, freelancers, and virtual e-commerce storefronts all underscore a growing awareness that there is something essential and different about finding one’s way and earning a living in the platform economy.

This year, Caribou Digital has been working with Qhala and with the support of the Mastercard Foundation on a project exploring the “Quality of Youth Digital Livelihoods” in Kenya. …


Introducing the QYDEL (Quality Youth Digitally Enabled Livelihoods) Project

Jonathan Donner, Caribou Digital and Shikoh Gitau, Qhala

Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

With the support of the Mastercard Foundation, Caribou Digital and Qhala are partnering to synthesize and gather new evidence about how Kenyan youth are adapting to “digitally-enabled” livelihoods — new ways of working and selling via platforms, gig work, social commerce, and e-commerce.

Kenya is setting the pace for digitization in Africa and now hosts a variety of digital livelihoods to explore. The government of Kenya, through the Ministry of ICT, has been at the forefront in supporting digital livelihoods, for example, offering Ajira, a digital livelihoods training platform. In the start-up…


This is a critical moment to shape the world’s digital future. The “response to the response to COVID-19” is already underway. We’re tracking it at this website.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis, a once in a century event. Grief and sacrifice are everywhere, and the world’s immediate responses have been as massive as they are diverse. There is hope that communities will recover from these events, not without pain and loss, but despite them.

And yet, if and when the most acute parts of the crisis end, the world is not going to be the same as it…


As automation and digitization transform economies and usher in a new ‘future of work’, closing the skills gap is critical. In this note, we offer a way to think about a broad, dynamic set of institutions, channels, materials, and audiences that combine to create a multitude of approaches to workforce training.

A Jumia training session in progress.

With the support of the Mastercard Foundation, Caribou Digital is currently working on an initiative called “Skills for the Digital Age”, curating materials and conducting new research on the skills challenges presented by the future of work.

Our project is structured around the evidence that, in economies where mechanization…


On 24 October 2019 — #UNDAY — I had the privilege to participate as a panelist at the United Nations General Assembly Second Committee Side-event: “Emerging models of economic activities: Implications for sustainable development”.

Thanks to the hosts — UN/DESA and UNCTAD, for including me, and thanks to the other panelists for their contributions. We covered lots of ground, touching on environmental sustainability, the creative economy, and on improving the digital economy.

I’ll share my (rough) remarks below the video. My remarks start at minute 28, but there lots of good stuff before and after.

In order … (Chair) Hamid…


At last, I think I have found a decent excuse to share pictures of my dog on my otherwise serious blog. Well, one picture anyway. Read on, and you’ll see why.

Lately. I’ve been thinking about digital identity, particularly about the different ways that people understand and approach the concept of digital identity. I wrote some initial thoughts about this in a recent medium post called “The difference between digital identity, identification, and ID”. This post is its sequel.

In February 2019 I participated in a workshop, part of the #GoodID discussion series, convened by Omidyar Network and hosted at…


Caribou Digital’s style guide for talking about identity in a digital age

Thanks to my Caribou Digital colleagues, Savita Bailur, Nicki McGoh, Bryan Pon, and Emrys Shoemaker, for their inputs to this essay

Image by Nick Youngston Alpha Stock Images CC By-SA 3.0

How does a person prove who she is? How does she describe who she is? How does a state count and distinguish between the people under its care? How does a company tie together disparate information about a user to personalize a compelling new product while maintaining that user’s trust? And how are the answers to these questions changing as digital systems replace analog ones? …


In the coming months the FiDA team will be conducting new research at the intersection of two broad themes: financial inclusion in the platform era and enterprises and financial inclusion.

Apart from agriculture, Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), are the greatest source of employment in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. They have have long been a focus of interest to the development community, but as digitization transforms the nature of work — from gig economies to international supply chains — the links between MSMEs and ICTs are increasingly important. We’ll be exploring how, in particular, the spread of ‘platforms’…


Keynote remarks at the USAID Digital Development Forum, 9 March 2018.

With entrepreneurial drive, the right technological solutions and a supportive, enabling environment, what could digital development look like in 2028 for base-of-the-pyramid populations?

If there is a guidebook for speakers in the technology community somewhere, it offers a warning: “don’t accept an invitation to talk about how technology will have changed in 10 years.” In technology 10 years is a long time.

Despite having made this first mistake, I’m thrilled to be here with you and to see many dear colleagues at this great event. …


This has been a memorable and exciting week for me as a researcher. Within the span of a few days, two of my recent projects have shed “draft” status and entered the public space.

Earlier this week, my colleagues at Caribou Digital launched a report (pdf), prepared with the support of The MasterCard Foundation, entitled Digital Lives in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. The report draws on interview and focus group data from young people in all three countries, suggesting new ways to understand peoples’ ICT use holistically, across multiple devices for multiple purposes. …

Jonathan Donner

Sr. Director for Research, Caribou Digital. Author: After Access: Inclusion, Development, and a More Mobile Internet (MIT Press) #digitaldevelopment #ict4d

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