International Travel Award Provided Associate Professor Funding for Research in Kenya

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Brian Ekdale, Associate Professor at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, was awarded the Stanley Faculty International Travel Award this year for his research in Kenya. Ekdale traveled to Kenya in August 2019 to look at the general workforce environment for short-term engagements, temporary contracts, and independent contracting (aka "gig economy") and how it relates to the country's well established informal economy.

Nairobi Traffic
Nairobi Traffic, Captured by Linh Do, Flickr

For his latest research, he focused on Uber and other app-riding services in Nairobi, Kenya. Without this funding, he would have been very limited; unable to travel to Kenya to see firsthand how ride sharing apps have changed the nature of transportation in the city. During his visit, he spoke with a number of drivers informally before writing his interview protocol. He plans to use these interviews to produce a journal-length manuscript in the future.

Ekdale Genesis Nairobi

After learning more about app riding services in Nairobi, Ekdale hired his long-time research assistant, Genesis Njeru Ngari, to recruit and interview drivers in Nairobi about their work experiences. Genesis has served as Ekdale's research assistant in Kenya for 10 years. Ekdale noted, "On this trip, I was able to introduce my daughter to Genesis and his family, which was a particularly meaningful experience for me."

The findings of this initial study will also inform his ongoing research into digital work in Kenya. “In the U.S., we talk about the gig economy as a major disruption in the way we view work,” said Ekdale. “In Kenya, many people are used to hustling between lots of different temporary forms of work. I’m hoping to learn what Kenyans can teach the rest of the world about this brave new world of work.”

Thanks to the University of Iowa International Programs for making this possible!

City of Nairobi
City of Nairobi, Captured by DEMOSH, Flickr