Alex Free

PhD candidate (New Media, Innovation and Literacy, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE))


Departmental webpage:

Twitter: @fuentelibre

Supervisor: Professor Robin Mansell

Research topic: Identities, transnationalised service work and outsourcing: labour in Kenya's call centres

Project summary:

With BPO (business process outsourcing) in Kenya aspiring to undergo rapid expansion on the strength of an improving ICT (information and communications technology) infrastructure, my study aims to investigate the profile, experiences and perceptions of those involved in the sector's call centres. While much of the focus of existing research on BPO centres has been on Kenya's need to scale up in order to compete internationally, this study is designed to focus empirical attention on the existing workforce of a newly expanding transnationalised service sector.

As a new service sector job role, studying call centre work presents questions around how workers' qualities and skills are understood, articulated, captured and moulded in fulfilling the work. It also raises questions about the interplay of workers' experience, ideas about the work and the role of workplace control mechanisms (such as the use of ICTs, training, bureaucracy and management interventions).

While Kenya's sector and infrastructure are more advanced than other countries' across the region, several other countries across Africa are developing strategies to expand into BPO. In addition to a focused study of the existing Kenyan workforce, it is hoped that this interest will offer useful empirical findings on work in an expanding information society that may be generalisable to other settings with similar characteristics.

Previous experience:

Before coming to the LSE I worked for Fahamu - Networks for Social Justice as publications officer of Pambazuka Press and assistant editor of Pambazuka News. Prior to this I completed an MSc in African Studies at the University of Oxford, worked as a sports teacher trainer in northern Cameroon for a year and completed a BA (Hons) in Comparative American Studies at the University of Warwick.