Internet Geographer


Does economic upgrading lead to social upgrading in contact centers? Evidence from South Africa


I have a new article out with Amir Anwar:

Anwar, M. A., and Graham, M. 2019. Does economic upgrading lead to social upgrading in contact centers? Evidence from South Africa. African Geographical Review. DOI: 10.1080/19376812.2019.1589730

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is seen by the South African government as key to employment generation. BPO operations are reasonably footloose and the industry’s immense focus on workplace control and high levels of attrition means that the development potential of the BPO industry on workers in South Africa is a matter of critical concern. This article uses the global production network (GPN) framework to understand the developmental potentials of contact center jobs for workers in South Africa. The key argument is that economic upgrading among contact center firms can lead to both social upgrading and downgrading among workers.

Related Work:

Graham, M., and Anwar, M. A. 2019. The Global Gig Economy: Towards a Planetary Labour Market? First Monday. 24(4).

Graham, M., Ojanpera, S., Anwar, M. A., and Friederici, N. 2017. Digital Connectivity and African Knowledge Economies. Questions de Communication. 32. 345-360.

Mann, L and Graham, M. 2016 The Domestic Turn: Business Process Outsourcing and the Growing Automation of Kenyan Organisations. Journal of Development Studies 52:4, 530-548, DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2015.1126251. (pre-publication version here)

Graham, M. 2015. Contradictory Connectivity: Spatial Imaginaries and Techno-Mediated Positionalities in Kenya's Outsourcing Sector. Environment and Planning A 47 867-883 (pre-publication version here).

Graham, M. and L. Mann. 2013. Imagining a Silicon Savannah? Technological and Conceptual Connectivity in Kenya's BPO and Software Development Sectors. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. 56(2). 1-19.

Mark Graham