Emergency Care in the Sharing Economy: The practice of algorithm optimization by Indonesia’s online taxi drivers

Research output: Contribution to conference - NOT published in proceeding or journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


In 2015, the Indonesian start-up company, Go-Jek, launched a scooter-taxi app, modelled on Uber. Since then, the app has evolved to include multiple services, and there are a growing number of competitors with similar apps. These apps rely on maintaining a large fleet of drivers in order to provide their services. Though referred to as ‘mitra’ or partner in Indonesia, the relationship between drivers and platforms is decidedly asymmetrical.
Drawing on empirical material collected through ethnographic fieldwork in Indonesia, this paper presents mechanisms that Go-Jek deploys within the app to manage their fleet of drivers. These include incentive tiers as well as deterrents for drivers servicing multiple apps. The paper then examines a variety of mechanisms deployed by drivers to navigate these affordances and restraints.
Central to this is the practice of ‘account therapy’, by which drivers try to optimize the algorithms governing the distribution of customer orders. Having observed that some accounts receive more orders than others, drivers will ‘nurse’ a ‘sick’ account back into health with a variety of methods, effectively training their accounts to receive orders. Depending on these platforms as a source of income, the ability to care for your account becomes critical in ensuring consistent earnings.
The paper demonstrates the inequalities of the tools available to the platform companies, and the people working for them, in adapting the app to better suit their needs. Drawing on literature from STS, this paper shows how practices of care become practices of resistance to intransparent algorithmic governance.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date4 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2019
EventDigital Asia: Nordic NIAS Council Conference: Cultural, Socio-Economic, and Political Transformations - Lund Univresity, Lund, Sweden
Duration: 2 Nov 20204 Nov 2020
Conference number: 12


ConferenceDigital Asia: Nordic NIAS Council Conference
LocationLund Univresity
Internet address


  • digital payments
  • algorithmic governance
  • platform economy
  • care
  • inequality


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