Worker-Led Alternatives: A Line of Hope for New Platform Futures
During the pandemic, as dominant platforms captured vital data infrastructure and strengthened their market hegemony, platform workers around the world continued to confront an increasingly precarious future of work. In response, such workers are challenging the logic of the platform economy through ‘platform cooperativism’, a genuine force seeking to reclaim digital technologies for the people’s interests, with examples of novel initiatives from across the Global South. Yet platform cooperatives face an uphill battle to viability due to their disadvantages compared to the dominant platforms they compete with. These disadvantages include cooperatives’ unwillingness to extract data for conversion to digital intelligence that would optimize their own activities, and in the Global South they also include difficulties in obtaining funding, cumbersome legal frameworks, and limited access to and trust of technology. Therefore, to tap into the radical potential of platform cooperatives, the legal and economic terrain must allow them to flourish. Some concrete steps in this direction can include establishing an enabling policy environment, facilitating access to new and sustainable sources of finance for cooperatives, instituting regulatory frameworks for the protection of data rights, creating consumer awareness, and incentivizing participation in these enterprises.