Washington D.C., April 8, 2011 A
new study by the World Bank Group’s infoDev program shows that
virtual online currencies and digital work now provide real income opportunities
to poor and unskilled workers in developing countries.
infoDev is a global technology and innovation-led development finance
program of the World Bank and IFC. The new study, Knowledge Map
of the Virtual Economy, finds that more than 100,000 people in countries
such as China and India earn a living through online games and websites
Jobs in the virtual economy include micro-tasks like categorizing products
in online shops, moderating content posted to social media sites, or even
playing online games on behalf of wealthier players who are too busy to
tend to their characters themselves. The study estimates that the
market for such gaming-for-hire services was worth $3 billion in 2009,
and it suggests that with suitable mobile technologies even the least-developed
countries could benefit from this emerging virtual economy.
“Developing countries’ roles in the digital world have been mostly limited
to users and consumers, not producers. But today, a growing mesh
of digital services is giving rise to a new layer of entrepreneurial opportunities
with very low entry barriers,” said Valerie D'Costa, Program Manager of
Tim Kelly, infoDev’s Lead ICT Policy Specialist, said, “Some of
the poorest people in the world are already connected to digital networks
through their mobile phones. The study shows that there are real
earning opportunities in the virtual economy that will become accessible
as mobile technology develops. This could significantly boost local economies
and support further development of digital infrastructure in regions such
as Africa and southeast Asia.”
While the virtual economy unlocks a plethora of business opportunities,
it should be noted that not all these activities are viewed positively.
According to the infoDev study, certain business ventures and services
offered may actually detract from the experience of other Internet users.
For example, harvesting and selling online gaming currencies or mass clicking
"Like" on corporate Facebook pages can create an unfair environment
where legitimate game play and user opinion loses value and is represented
“Entrepreneurs should focus on digital micro-work that benefits society.
Examples include transcribing books, translating documents, and improving
search-engine results,” said Dr. Vili Lehdonvirta, a researcher at Helsinki
Institute for Information Technology and the main author of the study.
The study, funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International
Development, is available on infoDev’s website and in print. For
more information, visit www.infodev.org.
About the World Bank Group
The World Bank Group is one of the world’s largest sources of funding
and knowledge for developing countries. It comprises five closely associated
institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
(IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA), which together
form the World Bank; the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral
Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement
of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Each institution plays a distinct role
in the mission to fight poverty and improve living standards for people
in the developing world. For more information, please visit www.worldbank.org,