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Formalizing Informal Youth Employment in the Global South: SMS-based TaskRabbit meets Mobile Banking

Often, youth must travel into urban centers, sleeping in train or bus stations until a temporary job is found. Imagine instead that the same youth can sign up for SMS alerts for jobs that match his/her skills, thereby avoiding the cost, wasted time, and social isolation caused by seeking work in unfamiliar locales. When a match is made between a prospective employer and employee, and the job is completed, payments are processed through a mobile banking platform, which lowers the risk of fraud and introduces informal economy workers into the formal banking system. Working Title: Gig-ly

Photo of Megan Morrison
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As Justin DeKoszmovszky pointed out in his research post "Don't Discount the Informal" even though permanent/formal employment is perhaps the ultimate goal, we should not dismiss the opportunity to improve the temporary/informal employment sector as well, and perhaps begin to "formalize" that sector of the economy., a cloud-based classifieds service and mobile banking payment system aims to mitigate the effects of poor infrastructure that contribute to inefficient markets and lost opportunities for commerce and wealth accumulation in areas of concentrated poverty.’s matching technology lets users send and receive targeted opportunities via SMS.  Payments for goods and services purchased through the platform are processed through a mobile banking partnership. provides a virtual bridge to efficiently connect youth to commerce, despite the poor roads, lack of banks, inadequate access to information, and geographic isolation that many youth face. 

When an individual signs up for the at local hubs, s/he will enroll in a mobile banking service and fill out a profile that indicates what s/he has to offer to the marketplace. For example, it may be manual labor. Or it could be a bike that s/he is willing to rent out on a daily basis. This profile gets saved into a cloud-based database. users can peruse profiles via the website and can reach out directly to a fellow user if they find something that fits their needs.’s matching algorithm scans the profiles and classifieds in real-time and will send an SMS text to users when there is a potential match. For example, a shopowner might post a classified ad via SMS seeking temporary help to make deliveries or stock shelves. This ad would be sent to users who indicated that they are willing to perform physical labor. Similarly, a customer who is seeking to borrow a bicycle for the day can post an ad that will automatically go out to individuals who are willing to rent out their bike for the day. Upon receiving notice of a match, the users can respond to the request, accept or deny the match, and upon completion of the job or rental, make and receive payment directly through their mobile phone. 

Users of the service (buyers/sellers, employers/employees) rate each other, allowing for users to build a reputation and promote a community of trust within the marketplace.

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them? benefits un-skilled or low-skilled youth aged 15-24 who have access to a mobile phone and currently participate or aim to participate in the informal economy. also benefits employers by bringing efficiency to the way in which they can find workers for specific tasks. benefits the emerging mobile banking sector by signing up new customers (and connecting them with money making opportunities). can be adapted to different country contexts, for the sake of this brief, let's imagine it being launched in Nigeria for the following two reasons: -The informal economy in Nigeria is about 2/3 the size of the formal economy. Currently in Nigeria, the poor inhabit a cash economy, resulting in a pattern that hurts not only unbanked individuals but also the Nigerian economy as a whole. Unbanked individuals are unable to access credit and other financial services, and can easily be victims of financial loss through flooding, fire or crime. -Nigeria is the largest mobile market in Africa and the tenth largest in the world; therefore the necessary technology infrastructure is already in place. could operate as a for-profit social enterprise and achieve revenues in several different ways: -Selling user-data to marketers/advertisers who aim to reach base of pyramid consumers -Charging a nominal fee to place a classified ad or to promote a particular alert/advertisement -Grants from foundations and government who are investing in youth employment -Profit sharing plan with a mobile-banking partner

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people? aims to formalize the informal economy and improve the process through which unskilled and low-skilled youth find money-making opportunities. • Connects youth with temporary employment opportunities, thereby avoiding wasted travel, money and time spent seeking work opportunities. • Allows youth the opportunity to profit off of the things they own through participation in a peer-to-peer rental economy. • Introduces youth to a formal banking system where they can accumulate wealth and access other basic financial services (including loans so that an individual can start or expand their own business, go to school, etc.) • Allows youth (and their employers) the ability to prove credit worthiness over time through successfully completed transactions. • Lowers the risk of fraud and financial loss that can occur when handling cash.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I'm not in the right market to test out this idea, so I welcome advice in this area.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

All advice welcome! This concept currently builds on an idea that two classmates and I were tossing around a while ago for a class. We did some research and brainstorming but never pursued it further. Market research - where to launch this product/idea. Technical advice - how do SMS-based services work? Partnership advice - how would the partnership with the mobile-banking service work? Who are potential partners?

The idea emerged from:

  • A student collaboration

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to be involved in prototyping but need partners at some stage


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jes Simson

Great idea Megan, especially in areas where access to the internet is scarce. Have you got any ideas about how you might reach out to and engage potential employers? What incentives do they have in tight job markets to use your service when they might otherwise be able to fill vacancies pretty easily from their own networks?

Photo of Megan Morrison

Thanks Jes for your question - that's one of the issues I have been struggling with - how to induce companies to use this versus classified ads, personal networks, etc. to fill positions. It's definitely something I want to give more thought and though this idea did not progress to the next stage, I still welcome feedback from the community!