Samasource: Give Work

A compelling problem: 1 billion people in poor regions will face severe unemployment (up to 70%) in the next decade. Lack of economic opportunity is a root cause of crime, gender-based violence, and other social ills.


Give marginalized people around the world a decent income

The idea

Use the Internet to bring digital piecework from rich countries to the educated jobless in poor countries

How it works

  • Samasource engages clients who need large, relatively simple data projects completed
  • Samasource breaks down these projects into micro-work that can be digitally outsourced
  • The micro-work is sent to Samasource’s service partners, who are already providing training and internet access to individual workers in high poverty areas
  • Individuals complete the micro- work and over time build the capacity to act as free agents in the global outsourcing market
  • Samasource systems and account managers ensure quality, accuracy, and delivery for each project

How it will go to scale

Via a large NGO funded by earned revenue. Donor subsidies will be used to create revenue- positive operations and to expand to new areas. Ultimately, Samasource hopes to stimulate an industry that can employ this population.

Progress so far

Start up: Samasource has generated $670k in wages for over 1000 workers in 2011.

Visit the website

An education doesn’t do you much good when there aren’t any jobs, and in Sub-Saharan Africa there are many places where joblessness among the literate is
above 60%.

The waste of potential is even starker in refugee camps where the educated sit idle. Donor enthusiasm for computers in Africa has created underutilized computer centers, while firms in the U.S. are already outsourcing simple computer-based tasks they need to have done. Leila Chirayath Janah saw that the Internet could connect the two to bring decent jobs to those who need them most. Samasource (“sama” means “equal” in Sanskrit) connects jobless women, youth, and refugees to dignified, computer-based work, such as data entry, converting PDFs into text files, or judging the content of images for big websites. They partner with organizations with access to the educated jobless and available computer capacity, train them how to do the work, and drum up business through its US sales team. Given the projected growth of exportable computer- based tasks in the US, and computer access and bandwidth in poor countries, Samasource has the potential to bring dignified, decent-paying work to multitudes of literate poor in Africa and beyond.

A compelling problem

1 billion people in poor regions will face severe unemployment (up to 70%) in the next decade. Lack of economic opportunity is a root cause of crime, gender-based violence, and other social ills.

A scalable solution

Mulago assesses scalability based on five characteristics common to efforts that have taken lasting impact to scale.

Real impact: Samasource has systems for tracking total wages paid and the number of workers who completed tasks. In 2011 the average was ~ $670/ worker. Samasource is currently working to document baseline incomes of workers to ensure service to the target population.

Cost-effective: At scale, Samasource is expected to be an entirely earned revenue organization with almost no donor subsidy.

Lasting behavior: Workers gain online visibility as their skills increase, giving them the incentives, opportunity and platform to continue earning wages.

Easy replication: Global outsourcing of simple data tasks is not a new business model. Samasource is simply adding some additional features that allow them to reach the target population.

A viable route to scale: The global market for outsourced digital work is tremendous and Samasource is building the organization to capture a significant piece of it.

Capacity to deliver

Leila Janah, the CEO and Founder of Samasource, first developed the idea behind Samasource while working as a management consultant at Katzenbach Partners (now Booz & Co.), where her clients included global leaders in the outsourcing and telecom sectors and a number of prominent non-profits. Since founding Samasource, Leila has built both an impressive Board of Directors, along with a team of professionals in operations, sales and account management. Samasource has consistently met or exceeded delivery and fundraising targets.

updated October 2011