Femlab Symposium

Inclusive Work and the Platform Economy

Dates: April 19-22, 2022
Location: Virtual

The future of work is at the centre of debates on the emerging digital society: Which jobs will become obsolete through Artificial Intelligence (AI) and who will benefit? Can algorithms help to overcome discriminatory human decision-making or will they deepen existing biases? Do novel business models and platform designs provide progressive opportunities for workers or are they tools for their exploitation? How can workers organise themselves collectively and sustainably to contribute to responsible design and dignified forms of work? What does work look like on the margins of the digital? While many commentators bring to the table design solutions and inclusive visions, workers at the bottom of the supply chains, and particularly women, are often neglected in this conversation—despite forming the overwhelming majority of the workforce. 

FemLab.co, an International Development Research Centre (IDRC) seed-funded initiative on the future of work in the Global South, will host an online symposium in April to address such questions. The 4-day symposium (April 19-22, 2022) brings together civil society actors, designers, scholars, and business folk to share their grounded speculations on social and digital transformations, to carve common ground for an inclusive global value chain.

Featuring panel discussions among experts across these spaces, the symposium will offer insights on the platform economy, design innovations, gendered informality, and digital labour—all key elements related to the future of work in the Global South. We believe these conversations can help inform and build ethical platforms (both technologies and human interfaces) and create nuanced modes of storytelling that can reach multiple stakeholders, particularly those with influence, and leverage on decision-making across the value chain.

Programme

Moderators will introduce their topic and findings from research, inviting each panellist to share their positioning, followed by discussion and audience questions.

Opening Day: April 19, 2022

Introduction 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM IST (11:30 AM – 12:00 PM CET)
Dr Usha Raman, Co-founder, FemLab.co & Professor, Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad

Opening Words
Gillian Dowie, Senior Program Officer, International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

Keynote 3:30 PM – 4:15 PM IST (12:00 PM – 12:45 PM CET)
Sharmi Surianarain, Chief Impact Officer, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator

The Design Panel
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm IST (1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CET)

Moderator
Pallavi Bansal, External PhD Candidate, Erasmus University Rotterdam & Assistant Professor, Times School of Media, Bennett University 

Theme
Focused on design interventions in the ride-hailing sector and the challenges for women cab drivers and women-led companies and initiatives in this sector, this panel covers issues that are encountered with outreach, access, infrastructure, and data and algorithmic management, and pushes forward with possible ways to counter these issues.

Speakers

  • Rafael Grohmann, Assistant Professor, Unisinos University & PI for the Fairwork project, Brazil
  • Amrita Gupta, Director, Research Advocacy & Communications, Azad Foundation & National Coordinator, Non-Traditional Livelihoods Network
  • Vandana Suri, Founder, Taxshe, Bengaluru and Delhi/NCR 
  • Kanchi Shah, Former Platform Driver & Fleet Owner
  • Siddharth Peter de Souza, Post Doctoral Researcher Tilburg university & Founder, Justice Adda, and Siddhi Gupta, Design & Communications Lead, Justice Adda
Day 2: April 20, 2022
The Networks Panel
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm IST (1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CET)

Moderator
Sai Amulya Komarraju, Incoming Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad

Theme
Focused on the networked effect of platforms as well as the socio-cultural and political networks that workers engage in, this panel covers the implications of the digital on various forms of platformised work entered into by women, the tacit and invisible norms, and the formal and informal relationships within which women workers are able to seek, negotiate, and experience better work conditions.

Speakers

  • Himani Gupta, Founder, Kriti Social Initiatives
  • Bhavya Sharma, Associate Director, Public Relations, Urban Company
  • Dr Gayatri Nair, Assistant Professor, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi
Day 3: April 21, 2022
The Governance Panel
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm IST (1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CET)

Moderator
Chinar Mehta, PhD Scholar, Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad

Theme
In the platform economy, governance is closely associated with technology and the interactions between people and technologies. This panel delves into the gendered dynamics of systematisation of precarious work, institutional reforms, and the role of the social field in implementing technical solutions. When women workers in a precarious labour market become the site of implementation of governance, an important question to address is to expand on what the affordances of the system are. To this end, the broad issues this panel would include, but is not limited to:

  • The position of digital media in enhancing communication between stakeholders – limitations, challenges and future agenda
  • Understanding governance as cross-sectoral and cross-functional
  • The ways in which the social field re-enters technical governance systems
  • The challenges faced in the everyday forms of governance

Speakers

  • Radhika Radhakrishnan, incoming PhD Student, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Ana María Roríguez Pulgarín, Research Analyst, A4AI-Web Foundation
  • Harsh Nisar, Lead Data Scientist, Ministry of Rural Development
  • Sunitha Don Bosco, Assistant Professor, Anna University, and Maartje van Eerd, Assistant Professor, Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Mahendra Chandrashekhar, Managing Director, Chandrashekhar Tunnel Tech
Day 4: April 22, 2022
The Vision Panel
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm IST (11:30 am – 1:00 pm CET)

Moderator
René König, Lecturer, Erasmus University Rotterdam & PhD Scholar, University of Stuttgart

Theme
Generating provocations, introspections, and reflections that can push against buzz terms like innovation, sustainability, inclusivity, and human-centred design, this panel investigates how we can move beyond typical approaches, vocabularies, and normative debates around the future of work to provide alternative ways of seeing and being.

Speakers

  • Soumita Basu, Founder & CEO, Zyenika Inclusive Fashion
  • Ramona Liberoff, Senior Advisor, Roots of Impact & Venture Partner, Antler
  • Courtney Savie Lawrence, Co-founder, Circular Design Lab 
  • Aditi Surie, Sociologist & Researcher, Indian Institute of Human Settlements
  • Lauren Parater, Innovation Officer, Strategic Communications & Storytelling Lead, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Concluding Keynote: April 22, 2022

Moderator
Upasana Bhattacharjee, Junior Fellow, FemLab.co

  • Laura Herman, User Experience Research Lead for Creative Cloud & Emerging Products, Adobe & PhD student, University of Oxford’s Internet Institute
  • Shrinath V, Founder, The Better Product Studio

Closing Remarks 5:45 pm – 6:00 pm IST (2:15 pm – 2:30 pm CET)
Dr Payal Arora, Co-founder, FemLab.co & Professor and Chair, Technology, Values, and Global Media Cultures, Erasmus University Rotterdam

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