Digital Skills Help Unemployed Kenyan Youth Earn Using Cryptocurrency

The Digital Microwork project in Kibera connects young people at risk of hunger to an online microwork platform allowing them to earn income from machine learning jobs using cryptocurrency and e-wallets. For the project, World Food Programme (WFP) has partnered with machine learning company Corsali and blockchain technology firm Celo.

22-year-old Naomi Wangui from Kibera works on a computer as Elisa Molena (R) from the World Food Programme and Angelo Kalaw from the Celo Foundation looks on during the launch of a digital skilling initiative to enable youths learn, work and to earn income using cryptocurrencies.

WFP, Corsali and Celo partner for Digital Microwork project in Kibera, Nairobi

Young people are using digital skills to gain an edge in preparing for work, finding work and advancing at work, through the Digital Microwork project in Kibra, Nairobi that enables them to learn, work and earn income using cryptocurrencies.

The Digital Microwork project is part of the World Food Programme’s Innovation Accelerator initiative, Empact. It has partnered with machine learning company Corsali and blockchain technology firm Celo. 

During a three-week pilot phase, 200 unemployed Kenyan youth have been trained to access digital microwork from global platforms on their smartphones. 

Participants are paid instantaneously using Celo dollars (cUSD), a global stable coin pegged to the USD, and can cash out anytime to M-Pesa.

“As the world is undergoing a massive shift towards remote working in times of COVID-19, we aim to level the playing field for marginalized youth in the labour market. Since its launch, we have connected participants to online freelance opportunities, helping them earn income to improve their livelihoods and support their families,” Elisa Molena, Global Project Lead, WFP Innovation Accelerator said during a media tour.

As part of the initiative, Corsali developed a platform that makes digital microwork accessible and available on a mobile device. In addition, Celo’s blockchain technology offers a faster and affordable means of payment relative to existing options, significantly reducing the transaction fees for bite-sized microwork.

“Our goal at Celo is to support an inclusive financial system that contributes to achieving prosperity for all,” said Angelo Kalaw, Partner for Research and Innovation at the Celo Foundation. “It is exciting to work with WFP and Corsali to empower local economies.  Together, we are creating an inexpensive, fast, and scalable solution that combines digital microwork with integrated crypto-based micropayments.”

Research has indicated that the booming artificial intelligence (AI) data annotation industry is a potent source of jobs for communities with limited opportunities in the local job market, including informal sector workers. 

WFP's EMPACT aims at connecting vulnerable youth to opportunities offered by the digital economy, through training on relevant digital skills and connection to income-generating opportunities. The project is implemented in Kenya, Colombia, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon

However, people who don’t have computers and the internet to complete digital microwork assignments cannot access this online marketplace. Moreover, many marginalized communities don’t have access to formal financial institutions and don’t have bank accounts to receive payments.

Since 2016, WFP’s EMPACT programme has trained more than 18,000 students across twelve campuses in Lebanon and Iraq; 65 per cent of participants are female. In Iraq, almost 20 per cent of students generated an income through online work and 33 per cent of alumni were employed 4 months after graduating.