Using the lens of Uber’s digital workers in Paris, the purpose of this paper is to investigate how the trust-building mechanism is constructed between a digital platform and its digital workers in a foreign market entry.
This is a case study based on empirical data from in-depth interviews with 35 Uber drivers. A cross-disciplinary literature framework from mainly international business and internet geography theory and a reflexive qualitative methodology are applied.
Results show that the relationship between the digital platform and the digital workers is characterized by mistrust and suffers from decreasing commitment levels soon after market entry. Uber mitigates its mistrust via control and scarce mechanisms. The digital drivers’ “illusionary freedom”, a state in which they feel they can log on and log off at any time, enables the digital platform to gradually lower its commitment. The authors find that the mistrust does not seem to hamper the digital platform’s business performance.
The paper mainly covers the digital workers’ perspective and the case of Uber’s market entry in Paris.
This paper implies that digitally conveyed control seems to come at the cost of lowered human trust. Given the pace at which digital control systems are permeating society, this could eventually lower the whole societal trust level.
The authors criticize incumbent international business theory for not being sufficiently able to explain a contemporary digital business logic and the authors challenge the general assumption that successful internationalization is built through trust. The authors contribute with the conceptualization of a new technical market entry mode for digital platforms – “digitally controlled proxies”.
The authors would like to express our gratitude to the reviewers for their constructive comments and to the anonymized Uber drivers for sharing their experiences.
Wentrup, R., Nakamura, H. and Ström, P. (2019), "Uberization in Paris – the issue of trust between a digital platform and digital workers", critical perspectives on international business, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 20-41. https://doi.org/10.1108/cpoib-03-2018-0033Download as .RIS
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