December 2017 services delivery involves four actors, who play essential roles. These are: 1) citizen-clients i.e. users, 2) the state, including politicians and bureaucrats, and providers, consisting of 3) organizational providers, and 4) frontline providers (World Bank 2004, 47–50). The citizens are users of the public services in question, and have the right to vote and to voice opinions vis-à-vis government policies. The state actors are legally obliged to respond to citizens’ demands by appropriately delegating public service provision tasks to the providers. As for the providers, who are assumed to be either an organization or its frontline employees (e.g. public health clinics and frontline medical professionals, post office and postal workers, etc.), they also face obligations to meet the requirements from the government, often specified in contracts, and deliver services to the citizens. Are informal drivers and transport operators analogous to frontline public service providers in this formal accountability framework? But who is responsible for their service quality, and through which channel can citizens voice their opinions and create change in this system? To what extent do higher institutions have control over street-level service delivery and governance, managed through social arrangements rather than formal government contract? And, is app-based information exchange replacing citizen groups’ need for traditional “brokers” between the government and citizens? In the past, there has been research on direct political bargaining behavior by drivers or operators with politicians (Goodfellow and Titeca 2012; Goodfellow 2015; Khayesi, Nafukho, and Kemuma 2015; Sopranzetti 2013), and in-depth profiling of the highly ambivalent role played by intermediary brokers such as the preman (Simone 2014). Time is ripe for more systematic analysis of the grey space of public service delivery in reality, and how street-level informal institutions link with technological innovation, informal governance, and wellbeing and participation of the wider citizenry in a rapidly urbanizing metropolis.
Research Agenda #2: The Future of Informal Sector Collective Action in the Digital Age Do street-level informal institutions of economic solidarity scale up, and how does the app phenomenon affect informal workers’ ability to organize as a labor group rather than as informal social group? Given the high visibility and the quick rise and fall of violent protests in Jakarta in response to the apps, this is an interesting question – one that could end up showing a divergent paths between developed and developing economies. Recent analysts of the app phenomenon in Indonesia have suggested that the apps may have inadvertently ushered in a centralized collective bargaining opportunity not seen before. A less obvious (and unintended) effect of the rapid growth of app-based transport companies has been the emergence of greater opportunities for collective action. These companies refer to their drivers as ‘partners’ rather than ‘employees’. But they nevertheless provide a focal point for drivers seeking to act collectively to demand
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