MoneyLab: Coining Alternatives
Session 5: Mobile Money
Taylor Nelms (US): Mobile Money and the Social and Technological Infrastructures of Transaction: Lessons from the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion
Conference Day 1 (21 March 2014)
The rapid expansion of branchless banking and mobile money initiatives around the world, often in the service of an explicit ‘financial inclusion’ development agenda, has provoked questions about the intersection of novel technologies and financial systems with existing monetary practice. The Institute of Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion at the University of California, Irvine has supported five cohorts of researchers, mostly from the global South, who have carried out investigations on the interface of technology, policy, and practice. This talk will focus on a finding in their research that complicates the taken-for-granted peer-to-peer (P2P) model of much mobile money discourse: the plurality of the P at either end of the mobile money transaction. The lesson that not all ‘peers’ are individuals — or rather, that such actors are always situated in a particular social context — gives rise to questions about the technical and social intermediaries that connect them, the ‘2’ that stands for the infrastructure through which value is transacted. In turning our attention to the transactional architectures foregrounded by mobile money initiatives, we must ask about the technical specificities of those systems, but also about the specific ways people use such systems in everyday social settings. How is our understanding of money transformed by a focus on the infrastructures of transaction?