IGF 2023 WS #474 Working the algorithm: AI in labour and labour in AI


Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Emerging Technologies
Future & Sustainable Work in the World of Generative AI

Organizer 1: Natarajan Sarayu, Aapti Institute
Organizer 2: Shakhlo Kakharova, 🔒
Organizer 3: Soujanya Sridharan , Aapti Institute
Organizer 4: Kunal Barua, 🔒Aapti Institute
Organizer 5: Narayan Vinay, 🔒

Speaker 1: Natarajan Sarayu, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Shakhlo Kakharova, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Soujanya Sridharan , Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Natarajan Sarayu, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator

Kunal Barua, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Narayan Vinay, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Other - 60 Min
Format description: We propose a Fireside chat between the following participants:

1. Dr Sarayu Natarajan, Aapti Institute - Aapti has been working deeply and has instantiated mechanisms for worker advisory councils, and has extensively researched questions of AI and work, and data annotation and labelling.
2. Shahklo Kharakova, GIZ - GIZ has been deeply engaged in working on algorithmic accountability and click work.

Soujanya Sridharan from Aapti Institute will facilitate this conversation.

This semi structured fireside chat will allow participants to lean on their work and bring together perspectives. Unlike a moderated panel, this allows participants to - in a more natural manner - engage with each other's work (rather than opining!) or articulating artificially defined extreme views (as is likely in the case of a debate). We hope the fireside chat, with open questions from the audience and discussion generates healthy and constructive debate, and follow on actions amongst attendees.

We considered a debate as an option; however, we aim for this to be a more collaborative session without two opposite starting points.

Policy Question(s)

A. How can national governments effectively regulate platform and gig work to ensure the rights of workers, while balancing sometimes contradictory needs of firms?
B. How must state institutions engage with firm-led mechanisms?
C. How can policy engage with considerations of geopolitics, which are inevitable in any discussion on AI technology development?

What will participants gain from attending this session? By examining various perspectives and experiences, this event offers a unique opportunity for platform workers, policymakers, researchers, and individuals interested in the futures of workers to gain valuable insights, exchange ideas, and contribute to the ongoing dialogue. Specifically, we hope to break down and better understand:
1. Specific challenges faced by digital workers and clickworkers
2. The feasibility of mechanisms for scrutiny of algorithms, and the roles of the state, firms and civil society
3. Modes of governance which give workers a seat at the table and the ability to demand accountability, and the role they may play in justice for workers


Algorithms shape the very foundation of platform work, influencing crucial aspects such as task assignments, pay rates, performance evaluations, and even automated dismissals. Equally, human labour is critical to the making of emerging technologies, including generative AI.
Algorithms rely on vast amounts of data to make decisions and predictions, often with minimal human involvement. The business models of platform companies heavily depend on algorithmic management for its efficiency and cost-saving benefits. However, the lack of independent oversight in this process leaves workers vulnerable in significant decisions, including their access to social security coverage. Equally, the AI of today cannot progress without the involvement of human workers. Human labour is central to labelling and annotating vast text and voice datasets, that then make generative AI.

This session will delve into the multifaceted world of work to unpack the ways in which the algorithm makes work and work makes the algorithm. These concerns are not so far apart - in both instances, workers do not have a seat at the table or the ability to seek accountability.

In this fireside chat, we hope to address the pressing concerns and risks associated with the opacity of algorithms, such as bias, unfair treatment, and a lack of accountability. The effort will be to centre the ways in which workers are critical to the value derived from much technology, and assess the nature and feasibility of governance around work. In many parts of the majority world, algorithm-mediated and annotation work is necessary for employment. This discussion aims to assess the importance of independent audits, the necessity of algorithmic disclosure, and the provision of insights into decision-
making processes for workers.
The speakers will discuss innovative approaches aimed at fostering transparency, building trust, and creating a more equitable platform work environment for all stakeholders.

Expected Outcomes

1. (immediately post session) Session read back - at the end of the session, we will prepare a 1page readback/brief which will highlight the key action points, stakeholder wise. We hope that this readback, which is disseminated at the conference (as feasible) and via the institutions participating at the panel (and others), acts as a starting point to trigger discussions.
2. (longer term) the speakers in the fireside chat hope to come together to produce a longer paper exploring answers to questions posed above.

Hybrid Format: In order to ensure interaction between onsite and online, we hope to implement the following practices:
1. Thorough preparation of session/chat flow, to ensure smooth transitions
2. Active management (with colleagues from GIZ and Aapti who are present in the room) of the online chat functionality and live relay of the questions
3. Team members from both organisations are logged in, answering questions online, and supporting the discussion flow (including by offering explanations where relevant)