Digital Platforms for Livelihoods in the Global South - Developing the Tech Mediator Model

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Various types of digital services can offer multiple opportunities to improve livelihoods in the informal economy of the Global South. One of these types of services are the digital multi-sided platforms which create value by facilitating transactions between different types of users. Using these services, informal economy workers in the Global South could connect with users from the Global North to access resources outside of their own communities. However, there are various barriers that prevent informal economy workers from utilising these platforms. They might lack access to the necessary technical infrastructures or not possess all the required skills. This dissertation aims to find practical solutions to connect the users from the Global South to the beneficial global platforms. To utilise the resources available to Global South workers, this dissertation introduces the concept of a tech mediator, a person specifically trained to help their community members. Tech mediators carry this out by identifying which services fit their context, explaining the services to their community members, and supporting the community members while they use the services. Briefly, the tech mediator is a human interface to services which would benefit their community. Furthermore, this dissertation presents the full tech mediator model, lists their responsibilities, and positions them in relation to other stakeholders and resources in their community. The concept of tech mediator has been created in collaboration with two communities in Namibia by using participatory design methodologies. In the workshops presented in this dissertation, the need for tech mediators was identified, the concept was developed with the community members, and then tested in their community. A study is also presented of a similar structure used in commercial operations in Tanzania. The tech mediator model is the central contribution of this dissertation. The tech mediator model is in itself a practical solution which can connect users from the Global South to the global platforms; thus, it should be of interest to practitioners. The tech mediator model also contributes to the concept of technology champion by providing a connection to the digital platforms, as well as a complete list of the responsibilities held by the mediators when serving their community. Finally, this dissertation advocates the use of digital platforms to alleviate issues in the Global South, while acknowledging the potential issues that might rise.
Translated title of the contributionDigitaaliset alustat elannon hankkimisessa globaalissa etelässä: teknologiavälittäjämallin kehitys
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Nieminen, Marko, Supervising Professor
  • Winschiers-Theophilus, Heike, Thesis Advisor, External person
Print ISBNs978-952-64-0730-2
Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-0731-9
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • global South
  • digital platforms
  • sustainable livelihoods
  • informal economy


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