Crowdsourcing for social development and economic opportunity: Case study of Malaysia


I am at the Digital Malaysia National Crowdsourcing Conference in Kuala Lumpur, where I gave the keynote this morning on the global crowdsourcing landscape and the opportunities for Malaysia. 

It is fantastic to see what Malaysia is doing. Digital Malaysia is the government agency tasked with developing Malaysia as a digital nation towards 2020. One of its 8 current major initiatives is in using crowdsourcing to give work and opportunities to the least advantaged 40% of the population.

The overall strategic framework is to focus on both competitiveness and social equity and inclusiveness.  This has lead to the idea of what they call ‘microsourcing’ as a way of providing incremental revenue to the poor.  

The target is households of incomes less than RM2,300 (US$750) per month, including homemakers, retirees, unemployed,disabled, prison inmates

Connectivity in Malaysia is good, There is 82% broadband penetration in populated areas, and mobile penetration is very high at over 128%. The Malaysian government is already close to its initial target of distributing 1 million netbooks to disadvantaged children and has increased its target to 2.5 million computers distributed.

The target is to build 9 platforms generating $2.2 billion (US$700 million) in additional gross national income by 2020. Existing platforms include, which has over 80,000 freelancers, MyKerja, and EduSource.

There is already a well-developed strategy for how these crowdsourcing initiatives will develop. One thrust is the development of platforms that will link workers and client organizations. Another is providing the connectivty and education for workers to participate in distributed work. Yet it also requires clients to recognize the possibilities.

Today’s National Crowdsourcing Conference in Kuala Lumpur was organized primarily to educate the business sector on what they can gain from the use of crowd workers. This is certainly the beginning of a long journey in building demand as well as supply in creating a true two-sided market.

One of the most interesting aspects of Malaysia’s initiatives is that it sees an opportunity for demand and supply for crowd work to be within the same country. Malaysia is in many ways a developed knowledge-based economy, yet there are many who are not yet participating fully. 

There are many advantages to having common culture and language between clients and workers, and many tasks that require local knowledge or presence. Well-developed domestic crowd platforms can also take on global clients and workers, but there is absolutely an opportunity to begin with a domestic market. One of the most important reasons to do so is social development. 

During question time after my keynote I pointed to the risks of the global polarization of the value work, and to what we can do to mitigate that. Crowdsourcing initiatives that are designed from the ground up from a social perspective, such as Samasource and CloudFactory can make provide opportunities to the disadvantaged, equalizing the distribution of wealth and opportunity in a highly connected world.

These are vital initiatives, and I look forward to seeing how the Malaysian crowdsourcing landscape develops.