Digital economy in the Western Balkans: Trends and implications in online labour

5 Apr 2019 15:00h - 15:45h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 2nd Western Balkan Digital Summit]

Moderated by Ms Irena Cerović (Portfolio Manager at Innovation, Public Policy and Rule of Law, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)), the session focused on the research conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute in partnership with the UNDP that addressed trends and economic activities that were not referred to elsewhere. The ILabour Project focused mainly on the development and structure of the online labour market and connections both within the region and on a broader scale.

The research was presented by Mr Fabian Braesemann (Data Scientist, Oxford Internet Institute) and Mr Fabian Stephany (Computational Social Scientist, Austria).

Braesemann presented the findings of the research with a focus on the Western Balkan region, stating that in recent years, the economy of the region became more and more digitalised. Digitalisation of labour and services has led to a labour market that is not bound to a certain place anymore. In this regard, Braesemann referred to the platform Upwork, where people can advertise jobs and services.

He also pointed to the role of governments and policymakers in increasing the online workforce, but also addressed the geographical discrepancies and the need to bring online labour to rural areas and smaller towns in the region as most of the online labour activity is generally concentrated in the capital region*.

With regard to online labour, Braesemann stated that it is too early to impose classical labour market regulations on platforms such as Upwork. On the other hand, it is important to increase the demand for this kind of services as there are currently more freelancers than the actual demand.

Stephany stated that it is impossible to talk about online labour without referring to skills, and presented Stack Overflow, a website where millions of programmers ask questions when encountering problems and receive answers from their peers. The website is also indicative of the actual supply and demand for certain digital skills in various regions, including the Western Balkans. In this regard, in terms of digital skills and the use of technologies such as machine learning, deep learning, TensorFlow, to name a few, the WB6 lags behind the rest of Europe.

By Katarina Anđelković


*  More information can be found at