AI is Disrupting the Cheating Industry
The rise of AI tools like ChatGPT is taking jobs and income away from ghostwriters in Kenya.
Rest of World spoke to a number of freelance Kenyan writers who say AI tools are eating into the earnings of their services. The industry, which experts call “contract cheating,” is a lucrative business where freelance writers help American students write essays, handle classwork, and even submit assignments using a student’s identity.
“Last year at a time like this, I was getting, on average, 50 to 70 assignments, including discussions which are shorter, around 150 words each, and don’t require much research,” Collins, a 27-year-old freelance writer from central Kenya, tells Rest of World. “Right now, on average, I get around 30 to 40-something assignments.”
In 2022, Collins made between $900 and $1,200 a month for his work. However, with the rise of ChatGPT and other AI tools, his earnings have dropped to $500 to $800 a month.
A POWERFUL TOOL OR COMPETITIVE DISRUPTOR?
Experts say that the rise of AI tools will disrupt the supply of academic writers in Kenya, like Collins. But there’s some benefit with that disruption.
“On one hand, writers and other freelancers have realized the powerful capabilities of LLMs such as ChatGPT, and are using them in their work,” Alfred Ongere, founder of consulting company AI Kenya, tells Rest of World. “This means they can now spend more time being creative, and have better articles because of the time ChatGPT saves them. On the negative side, this will mean [fewer] jobs as their clients and origin of supply shift to ChatGPT and other AI tools to have their work done.”
Some writers, such as John Kamau—who has offered contract cheating services since 2014—don’t see AI as a direct threat.
“Work will still be there because even editing the AI-generated text to avoid detection takes a lot of time and effort,” he tells Rest of World. “So, I don’t think it’s as simple as saying, with AI, students in the U.S. will just do [the assignments] themselves.”
Additionally, Kamau says he expects more schools to limit and block the use of AI tools as the tech improves.
“Academic writers will still have their work. But it will have a positive effect [on] writers who can collaborate with ChatGPT and use it as a guide,” he tells Rest of World.
Still, a number of freelance writers in Kenya say work lately has been slow.
“When I started last year, as a literal amateur, in the first month, I did 30 assignments,” Wade Brian, a third-year finance student who provides contract cheating services, tells Rest of World. “As I got better, I was doing up to 60 assignments a month. The most I made in a month last year was 40,000 Kenyan shillings [$296].”
In March, Brian secured work for only 10 assignments.
“It’s not that I haven’t been looking [for gigs]. I didn’t even hit 10,000 Kenyan shillings [$74],” he tells Rest of World.
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