Monday, August 1, 2022

The Social Meaning of Mobile Money: Navigating Digital Payments, Savings and Credit in the Global South

by Janaki Srinivasan, PhD, IIIT-Bangalore and IMTFI Fellow

"The Social Meaning of Mobile Money," Chapter 7 of Data-Centric Living: Algorithms, Digitization and Regulation, edited by V. Sridhar; November 30, 2021; Routledge India, 344pp.


Financial transactions have been an integral part of people’s everyday transactions the world over. Whether in the form of cash, credit, plastic cards or today, using digital platforms, these transactions continue to both structure and be shaped by the existing social order . Using a “social meaning of money” framing , this chapter draws on examples from around the world to better understand how people give, receive and save money in the Digital Age. In the process, it attempts three shifts in focus: (1) from the inherent value of monetary technologies to how this value is constituted in practice within specific constellations of norms, values, power relations and resource distribution, (2) from the use of digital platforms to the integration of their use with non-digital artefacts in practice, and (3) from the innovativeness of technology design to the innovativeness of its users. The chapter finds that while mobile financial tools and associated data may well be making the world of financial transactions more inclusive in some ways, they simultaneously risk excluding certain categories of people, practices and geographies from the economy. By alerting us to the promise and perils of newly introduced modes of transacting our finances, this chapter will urge its audience to think more realistically about how to better design such tools and the policies regulating them.

Download full chapter online here:

This chapter is part of the collection: Data-Centric Living: Algorithms, Digitization and Regulation, edited by V. Sridhar and is available online. The book explores how data about our everyday online behaviour are collected and how they are processed in various ways by algorithms powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). The book  investigates the socioeconomic effects of these technologies, and the evolving regulatory landscape that is aiming to nurture the positive effects of these technology evolutions while at the same time curbing possible negative practices. The volume scrutinizes growing concerns on how algorithmic decisions can sometimes be biased and discriminative; how autonomous systems can possibly disrupt and impact the labour markets, resulting in job losses in several traditional sectors while creating unprecedented opportunities in others; the rapid evolution of social media that can be addictive at times resulting in associated mental health issues; and the way digital Identities are evolving around the world and their impact on provisioning of government services. The book also provides an in-depth understanding of regulations around the world to protect privacy of data subjects in the online world; a glimpse of how data is used as a digital public good in combating Covid pandemic; and how ethical standards in autonomous systems are evolving in the digital world.

A timely intervention in this fast-evolving field, this book is useful for scholars and researchers of digital humanities, business and management, internet studies, data sciences, political studies, urban sociology, law, media and cultural studies, sociology, cultural anthropology, and science and technology studies. It is also of immense interest to the general readers seeking insights on daily digital lives.

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