Google eyes TaskMate global launch after Kenya rollout

Google has today launched TaskMate in Kenya, a crowdsourcing app that lets people use smartphones to do tasks and get paid, tapping the growing gig economy. The tech giant said it has rolled out the beta version after a year-long experiment in the East African country and is preparing to introduce it to other countries across the continent. The app is available in India too, where it’s also in the pilot stage.

TaskMate mobile app users fulfill skilled and unskilled tasks such as translation or photography for businesses — that are approved by Google to post on the platform.

TaskMate joins a growing list of apps and services launched by Google that offer people payment for services carried out. They include a rewards app that lets people get paid for filling out surveys and local services ads that link businesses, at a fee, with clients within their vicinity.

“Today we have launched TaskMate, and it’s the first time we have opened it in Africa and across the world,” said TaskMate product manager, Mike Knapp.

The pilot started in Kenya late last year and users were able to carry out different tasks including taking photos of plants for a research project carried out by Penn State University. ​​The app’s gigs are defined as either sitting or field tasks.

“We went to a pilot phase where we had 1,000 people use the app, and they gave very positive feedback. And so now we’ve moved to the beta phase. And we’re really experimenting at a bigger level at this point,” said Knapp.

“And we’re looking for businesses and startups to come and experiment with us on the platform, to see how this can help them solve the difficult problems that they’re working on,” he said.

Businesses posting tasks on the platform have the option of making it available to a select group of people or can invite specific people to carry it out. TaskMate users in Kenya withdraw the money earned through mobile-money payment platform M-Pesa, run by Safaricom, the biggest telecommunication company in the East Africa region.

“This is a crowdsourcing platform that simplifies the distribution and accomplishments of tasks from business, for businesses and organizations. It is also an app that provides opportunities to Kenyans, whether it’s community building or earning extra income. This is Google’s commitment to build for and with Africa, in its digital transformation journey” he said.

The launch happened as Google announced that it had disbursed $10 million in loans to help small businesses across Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa make economic recovery brought about by the COVID pandemic. Google is disbursing the loans through Kiva, a San-Francisco based nonprofit lending organization. The funding is part of the $1 billion it said a fortnight ago it will invest in Africa.

Google’s investment will include a subsea cable, which will cut across South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St Helena, connecting Africa and Europe. It will offer faster internet and create about 1.7 million jobs in Nigeria and South Africa by 2025 as the digital economy grows, they said.

Africa’s digital economy is expected to grow as integration continues, offering newer growth opportunities as more people get connected. In sub-Saharan Africa, about 303 million, 28% of the population, are currently connected to the mobile internet according to the 2021 GSMA mobile economy report. This number is expected to grow to about 40% by 2025, offering a bigger market to internet-based businesses and services such as TaskMate that are tapping internet connectivity and Africa’s youthful population.