LaborVoices is a for-profit company with a social mission: ending labor abuses by enforcing labor market transparency. LaborVoices (LV) uses pervasive mobile technology to draw information from workers on abusive or deceitful employers and encourages employer responsibility for providing safe work environments. To accomplish this, LV provides a mobile technology platform for migrant workers - think of a cross between Yelp and Ask.com - to ask questions over the phone about a destination and receive answers from hundreds of workers currently at the site. LV gathers these questions and answers to generate reliable reputations of employers and worksites. This data is transparent, encouraging employers to improve conditions for better ratings; it’s also anonymous, ensuring that workers who report abuses are safe from employer reprisal. No smartphones are necessary - simply a normal cellphone capable of sending and receiving calls. We are currently running a pilot in Bangalore, India, and plan on reaching one million workers by 2012.
Kohl S. Gill, Ph.D.
Dr. Kohl S. Gill is the President and Founder of LaborVoices, Inc., a start-up company providing information services to migrant workers and supply-chain managers. Dr. Gill served as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow for the U.S. Departments of Energy and State, most recently as the South Asia and Middle East Labor Affairs Officer for the Office of International Labor and Corporate Social Responsibility in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Prior to federal service, Dr. Gill was an Indicorps Fellow in the slum areas of Delhi, India, serving as a volunteer paralegal with local residents, using transparency legislation to fight both petty and grand corruption at the local level. Dr. Gill is a graduate of the California Institute of Technology and received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, for his work in quantum computing and semiconductor physics.
The LV revenue model is based on targeted audio advertising to its broad base of mobile workers. Eventually, LV will sell real-time risk-analysis products to a wide variety of consumers, particularly supply-chain managers.
LaborVoices is a global information services company specializing in production and marketing of information services to three key markets:
The company offers fact-checking facilities with valid reputations of employers (LV-M), marketing opportunities to reach the global migrant labor market (LV-A), and labor market intelligence analysis for supply-chain management, risk management, and crisis intervention (LV-CSR).
The company offers a unique alternative to each market: LV-M delivers more and better information for migrating workers, versus established family-and-friends information networks; LV-A provides highly-targeted opportunities to access high-value individuals at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) at the point of making large financial decisions, versus existing mass-media outlets; and LV-CSR delivers inexpensive, accurate, real-time, ubiquitous labor market intelligence to brands and socially-responsible entities, versus the current expensive, cumbersome, and ineffective inspection, verification, and certification processes.
There is strong evidence to support LaborVoices' value proposition. We have been running a pilot project in Bangalore, India since September 2010, and have established strong on-the-ground partners to grow the base of workers providing reviews. At the same time, we have been able to iteratively test our operating procedures and overcome technological and grassroots obstacles. An identical model in the agriculture sector (http://hci.stanford.edu/research/voicemedia/) has already worked effectively in rural areas of India. We therefore know that information can be collected using our specific approach to transparency and local partnerships, and that the technology for disseminating it via mobile phones works.
We also know that major brands worldwide are willing to pay for social auditing, as evidenced by the proliferation of auditing firms and multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the MFA Forum (http://www.mfa-forum.net/), the EICC (http://www.eicc.info/), and the EITI (http://eiti.org/). Finally, we know that firms are interested in reaching our audience via audio advertisement, which is signaled by local radio advertising rates. Given these realities, LaborVoices' business model is projected to achieve profitability in its third year. We believe LV will eventually achieve greater returns and larger buy-in due to a strong network effect, resulting in a positive feedback loop of increased users and revenues.