ILO reflects on the Social and Solidarity Economy’s contribution to digital inclusion in Asia

The ILO participated in a webinar organized by the Asian Roundtable for Social Protection, to discuss the intersection of digital technology, social and solidarity economy, and social protection in Asia and the Pacific.

News | 01 April 2022
The Asian Roundtable for Social Protection (AROSP) held an online webinar “Digital Technology and Solidarity Economy in Asia” on March 30, 2022. The webinar’s objective was two-fold: discuss the implications of digital transformation for the rights, livelihoods, and social protection for formal and informal workers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic; and shed light on the social and solidarity economy (SSE)’s contribution towards building a more inclusive, sustainable, and fair digital societies and economies.

The first session focused on the impact of digital technology on people’s livelihoods and their rights. Mr. Benjamin Velasco, Director of SOLAIR’s Center for Labor and Grassroots Initiative in the Philippines presented the phenomenon of digital colonialism whereby transnational companies hire cheap, mainly female labour to offshore digital services to the Global North. He presented a series of policy measures to combat this issue, such as ensuring women and girls’ access to digital skills. Mr. Vino Lucero, Digital Rights and Communications Manager of EngageMedia, presented on the intersection between digital technology and human rights, stressing the collective responsibility to educate others about improving digital safety.

The second session was on the SSE’s contribution to digital inclusion especially for vulnerable workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Dr. Benjamin Quiñones, co-founder of the Asian Solidarity Economy Council (ASEC) presented the SSE as an alternative model to neoliberalism. He stressed the digital technology can be an effective means to strengthen the SSE ecosystem, such as through organizing informal women workers.

Ms. Simel Esim, ILO COOP Unit Manager informed the participants of the upcoming general discussion on Decent Work and the Social and Solidarity Economy at the 110th Session of the International Labour Conference in June 2022. She highlighted the discussion could bring greater visibility and awareness of the SSE to the ILO constituents in Asia and the Pacific. She also emphasised the SSE’s role in facilitating social protection, digital transition, and transition to formal economy for informal workers.

Her presentation was followed by two speakers from Indonesia sharing experience on cooperative initiatives during COVID-19, and social media as a tool for organizing, such as to connect trade unions and farmers’ unions. The other two presentations were on accelerating digital literacy for vulnerable communities, and “guthi,” a traditional solidarity economy practice in Nepal.

The session concluded with an exchange of ideas to strengthen digital inclusion and social protection for informal and formal workers in Asia and the Pacific. The webinar brought together over 120 social protection practitioners, representatives from national and international organisations, civil society organisations, research institutions and other interested individuals. The presentations, materials, and recordings for this webinar (in English with simultaneous translation into seven languages) are available here.