The Dark Side of Remotasks

In the evolving landscape of online work, one individual’s revelation has thrust Remotasks into the spotlight. Brian Kipchumba, an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) diploma student at Kaiboi Polytechnic, recently shared a remarkable achievement with President William Ruto. Since December 26, 2023, Brian has successfully earned $284 (KSh 45,795) through Remotasks, marking a significant moment that underscores the platform’s impact on the lives of young, tech-savvy individuals like him.

Remotasks itself serves as a gateway to a unique digital marketplace, offering opportunities for individuals, dubbed Remotaskers, to earn income through a variety of tasks related to cutting-edge technologies. Whether contributing to the development of virtual assistants, self-driving cars, or other forms of artificial intelligence, Remotaskers can navigate a diverse array of projects, tailoring their involvement based on personal skills and preferences.

The allure of Remotasks lies not only in its accessibility but also in its user-friendly onboarding process. Boasting the flexibility to join and start earning in less than an hour, the platform further supports its community through free training sessions. These sessions empower individuals to develop the necessary skills to maximize their earnings. With tasks ranging from simple orders to more intricate projects, Remotasks aims to create a dynamic ecosystem where contributors can actively shape their online work experience.

As the digital landscape continues to redefine traditional notions of employment, Brian’s journey becomes emblematic of the opportunities and challenges embedded within platforms like Remotasks. It is against this backdrop that we delve into the intricacies of Remotasks, uncovering not just its potential but also the darker facets that demand our scrutiny.

The Dark Side of Remotasks

While the narrative surrounding Remotasks initially appears promising, a closer examination reveals a complex tapestry of challenges, giving rise to a discernible “dark side” that warrants our attention.

Obtaining Remotasks Accounts: Not as Simple as It Seems

Accessing the purported opportunities on Remotasks isn’t a straightforward affair. The platform lists several prerequisites, including a computer, internet connection, and a PayPal account. These requirements, however, pose financial barriers for potential users, as obtaining a computer and reliable internet can be financially taxing. Quoting the Remotasks website, it’s apparent that these prerequisites are “not easy to get a hold of,” emphasizing the stark realities that hinder entry into the platform.

Unequal & Irregular Pay Across Global Regions

One glaring issue plaguing Remotasks is the glaring disparity in pay across different regions. A Washington Post article from August 2023 highlights the plight of workers in the Philippines, emphasizing that Remotasks, a platform established by SEPI in the Philippines, is prone to withholding payments or deactivating accounts based on subjective assessments of work accuracy. The same article reports that Remotasks pays different rates for the same work in various parts of the world. This echoes the sentiment from The Verge, stating that Kenyan annotators experienced a drop in pay to “$1 and $3 per hour,” revealing a stark contrast to the promise of fair wages in every region proclaimed on the platform’s official website. Furthermore, The MIT Technology Review substantiates Remotasks’ commitment to fair wages but underscores persistent issues, with the platform being labeled as “buggy and sometimes misleading.” Payments, it asserts, have become “more unreliable,” compounding the frustration among Remotaskers who find themselves at the mercy of an unpredictable payment system.

Conmanship and “Lucrative Accounts” 

Another critique revolves around the sale of Remotasks accounts, particularly those linked to more lucrative regions like the United States. This market for accounts has given rise to fraudulent activities and extortion. The platform’s rules explicitly prohibit actions like selling or purchasing accounts and manipulating the platform for personal gain. However, these rules remain largely unenforced, fostering an environment where users engage in behaviors that compromise the integrity of the system. The need for an “equitable payment system across different global regions” is evident to curtail the flourishing black market, as pointed out in the notes.

Buyers purchasing accounts often face disappointments, discovering that they acquired disqualified accounts.

Remotasks’ rules explicitly ban activities such as sharing account credentials, creating multiple accounts, and manipulating information. Despite these regulations, enforcement appears lax, leaving innocent users vulnerable to the pitfalls of a system that lacks oversight.

Unrealistic Expectations and Lack of Transparency

Complaints from Remotaskers extend to unrealistic expectations imposed by the platform, leading to frustration and dissatisfaction. The platform’s lack of transparency further exacerbates the situation, with workers expressing a sense of dehumanization and insufficient information about their work.

Variability in Work & Gig Economy Pitfalls

The variability in tasks within Remotasks adds a layer of unpredictability to workers’ income. As noted, the most common complaint revolves around the inconsistency of tasks, making it challenging for Remotaskers to rely on a steady income. This mirrors broader issues within the gig economy, where workers often find themselves at the mercy of platform policy changes, lacking job security and essential benefits.

Government Support for Remotaskers

As Remotaskers navigate the intricate challenges within the platform, the question of government intervention emerges as a crucial aspect of fostering a fair and sustainable digital work environment. Online conversations reflect frustration, with users like @kimaniac2002 lamenting their account closures and feeling abandoned by the government. He recounts his struggle, stating in a post, “The government has had almost zero facilitation and input in these online jobs. For the President to purport that it’s a government initiative is very insincere.” This user’s experience echoes a broader sentiment that governmental involvement has been lacking and insufficient in addressing the challenges faced by Remotaskers.

Economist Ephraim Njenga advocates for a more robust government role, emphasizing the potential for the digital economy to mitigate youth unemployment. In a threaded post on X (formerly Twitter), Njenga envisions the Konza Technocity as a hub for remote work, equipped with the necessary infrastructure to support emerging economic opportunities. 

He adds that the government should also ensure the country has affordable, accessible, reliable and fast internet to facilitate this remote working. “We already have many people in this country earning money online. Digital creators are a good example. But people still have to contend with a lot of challenges.”Key among those challenges are slow internet, lack of equipment and supporting infrastructure.

The exploration of Remotasks unveils a multifaceted reality. Brian Kipchumba’s revelation initiated the narrative, shedding light on the platform’s potential for online income generation. Following his encounter with the president, online conversations include several people complaining of accounts either being suddenly deactivated, especially just before payday, being disqualified by Remotasks for breaking their rules and regulations, or not getting tasks all together. User @Godie_Njagi eloquently explained the phenomenon: “Since Brian Kipchumba’s moment of fame kibanda ya Remotasks imekua in flames.

Kazi imepotea tu all over sudden, empty queues and no active. Na unaonanga watu wakijifanya heroes huku wakipeana info na kutrash gatekeepers, see why?”

The government has to pass laws that protect Kenyan workers against workplace harassment like it would in any other industry. 

The concluding chapter of this discourse directs attention to the role of the government. While Remotasks operates within a digital landscape, it is not immune to the need for regulatory oversight and support. Users’ grievances highlight the absence of a safety net and advocacy for their rights. Economist Ephraim Njenga’s proposals echo the call for intentional government intervention, emphasizing that the digital economy could be a source of forex and a solution to youth unemployment. As the digital gig economy continues to evolve, collaboration between platforms, users, and government entities becomes imperative. Only through such concerted efforts can the promises of online work be realized without compromising the welfare of the individuals contributing to this burgeoning sector.