MoneyLab: Coining Alternatives
Session 4: Mobile Money
Erin Taylor: Mobile Money and the ‘Social Good’ of Financial Globalization
Conference Day 1 (21 March 2014)
After decades of mixed results from microfinance initiatives, mobile money has the potential to provide a portfolio of financial tools to the world’s poorest people by building on existing infrastructure, reducing transaction costs of service delivery, and providing more reliable ways of identifying financial customers. Yet mobile money is not just ‘microfinance’: it is a private good that incorporates individuals into a global financial system – often for the first time. Drawing upon a case study of Haiti as well as global data, Taylor teases apart the private and public properties of mobile money to address the historical and economic implications of incorporating everyone around the globe into one global financial system. She contrasts mobile money on the demand side (as a tool that frees people to build their own networks and economic security) with mobile money on the supply side (as a device for surveillance, marketing, and public goods provision). Taylor uses the term ‘social goods’ to describe how, as development and market ideology collide, private goods and public goods are taking on each other’s properties. Finally, Taylor argues that socio-economic development and global finance, when objectified in mobile money, lose their distinction.
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