Workshop by Voices 4 Workers in Tech (V4WT)

On 24 April 2023, V4WT conducted a workshop aimed to more sharply understand the capital relationships, power dynamics, and cultural contexts of workers in tech. 

V4WT is essentially an interdisciplinary research group stemming from the CGHR Student Group, dissecting current issues and problematic regulations faced by workers in the technology industry. The group advocates for the ethical production and use of software. At its core, V4WT through conversations and workshops seeks to expand robust discussions about labour rights in the Global South, ranging from improving minimal labour standards in tech sectors, to fighting for labour dignity in developing economies.

The workshop started with a brainstorm, inviting all participants to share what they perceived and understood by “the ethical production of digital technology”. In the first session, each participant discussed the definitional scope of “ethics” and “digital technologies”, and their answers ranged from the risks attached to doing the tech work, the nuances between “ethical” and “fair”, to the workers and consumers involved in the production chain of technology. On this basis, the participants expanded the discussion from perceptions to practices, asking how policy-makers can achieve procedural and distributive equality in this increasingly powerful technological industry.

The two practitioners present, who worked in the tech industry in Nigeria and China, highlighted the importance of wages, working conditions, labour protection and most importantly, corporate ownership.

As the session progressed into deep-dives, more critical questions emerged as how to dismantle the binary between universal human rights and individualistic labour rights, and how can cross-sector solidarity be promoted.

The second session unfolded with a specific review on the comparison between labour problems in the Global North and the Global South. Scholars from India, China, Nigeria, and Latin America offered their knowledge and view about the application or even the violation of labour law in different regions, as well as how are workers treated differently in Southern and Northern countries that are positioned in different parts of the global value chain. 

The V4WT workshop ended with remarkable results. The research team collected social facts, academic viewpoints and suggestions regarding the labour problem and human rights in the technology industry. Fundamentally, the outputs provided a crucial basis for V4WT to refine their research project and establish a professional network in striving for further social impacts.

By Lu Wang and Muhammed Alakitan