The Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion (IMTFI) welcomes papers from any academic discipline related to its thematic foci for the IMTFI Working Paper Series. These foci include but are not confined to everyday uses and meanings of money, mainstream and alternative currencies, mobile money for poverty reduction, and new technological infrastructures to facilitate value storage, transfer, payment, and exchange. The Working Paper Series is multi and inter-disciplinary in character. 


IMTFI Working Papers


Mobile Money: The First Decade 


This white paper surveys the lessons from the first decade of research into mobile money, focusing on an archive of studies produced by IMTFI Fellows. The paper describes mobile money's primary use case—P2P money transfer—and argues that both the "Ps" and the "2s" of this model (mobile money's "peers" and the technological and social infrastructures that intermediate them) must be understood in context. The paper then outlines ten insights from the IMTFI research archive that demonstrate the contextual complexities involved in introducing and scaling mobile money, including discussions of: agent networks; physical infrastructure; location, place, and space; kinship and family; gender and gender inequality; class, caste, and rank; religion and ritual; time and tempo; government and regulation; and the persistence of both cash and non-currency stores of value. The paper concludes by raising issues that promise to be critical provocations for the next decade of mobile money research, making an argument for methodological diversity, and interrogating the limitations of the "financial inclusion" frame within which mobile money has been situated as a development intervention. If mobile money is, at its core, a technology of communication and circulation, it is also a central means of distribution and redistribution. What would it mean, then, to shift the conversation from debates over financial inclusion to questions about financial justice?

“My Story Has No Strings Attached”: Credit Cards, Market Devices, and a Stone Guest


In the retail industry, consumer credit is sometimes seen as a dangerous parasite that can become bigger than its host. Credit cards are marketing devices that aim at easing the attachment between consumers and goods. Credit cards are also value meters that trace every single transaction. Credit cards can even be “gardening” tools. Sowing is the name used in Chile’s retail industry to call the data management strategy that consists of extending the credit limit of low income customers depending on their payment behavior. Data on previous transactions and behavior replaces collateral. Credit cards are not only used by the persons whose names are on the cards; People borrow and loan their cards, or, more precisely, their cards’ credit limits. Credit cards do not trace behavior but hidden networks. Can social relations act as parasites on credit – uninvited guests whose host is already a parasite? This article tells the story of a study that started in the middle – credit cards – and slowly became a Serresian economic anthropology.

The Impact of Pure Mobile Micro-financing on the Poor: Kenya's Musoni Experience

Almost all the micro-finance institutions (MFIs) in Kenya have introduced mobile money to increase the convenience and speed of transactions, and to lower the cost of transferring funds. Since most MFIs had already established their brick-and-mortar operations, mobile money only complements their traditional approaches to serving their clients. Musoni, a relatively new MFI, provides micro-finance purely through mobile technology. This cashless model eliminates some administrative costs and makes transactions efficient for both the customers and the MFI. The uptake has been impressive and the model is believed to help reduce client groups’ meeting frequency, leaving customers more time for business and increasing customer loyalty. The researchers proposed to establish preliminary evidence of the impact of pure mobile money on the consumers of Musoni services. The qualitative data was collected through focus group discussions and in-depth interviews while quantitative data was collected via structured questionnaires. From the study, it was observed that mobile money, when bundled with other products, became more valuable to customers and made the other products more appreciated. There was also an element of increased savings as a result of using mobile money. In addition, there was an apparent shift to mobile money for other transactions.

What Drives Behavioral Intention of Mobile Money Adoption? The Case of Ancient Susu Savings Operations in Ghana

This study provides insights into the ancient susu savings operation in Ghana and the behavioral intention or willingness of susu collectors and users to adopt a mobile money (MM) platform as part of their savings practices. More specifically, this study investigates factors that determine one’s intention to adopt the MM space as a savings channel, particularly in place of more traditional ways of saving among many people in West Africa. The study reports many interesting findings but one that is striking is the physical presence of the susu collector, which was found to be statistically significant but having a negative influence on one’s behavioral intention to accept MM. This, which was found to be the primary reason motivating susu users to honor their savings commitment, is potentially an important factor in explaining why respondents were not sure whether an MM platform would be an effective method of saving. While MM uptake remains significantly low, the study findings suggest that the way to increase uptake is to create more awareness, embark on financial literacy programs, and reduce mistrust and perception of risk of the MM platform.

Click here to read executive summary.
Patterns of Financial Behavior Among Rural and Urban Clients: Some Evidence from Tamil Nadu, India

There is by now ample evidence that the poor lack access to basic financial services. It is, therefore, no surprise that financial inclusion has become a focus of attention for development professionals seeking to alleviate poverty around the world. However, the nature of poverty and deprivation, the livelihood, and the financial needs of the poor vary widely across different contexts. In India, for instance, the financial needs and practices of the poor differ across rural and urban areas. An in-depth understanding of the financial behavior of the rural and urban poor is essential for designing the right product-mix that addresses their needs. Our study contributes to this goal by examining how the rural and urban poor in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, manage their money. We adopted the “Q-squared” methodology (combining quantitative and qualitative methods) to gain a holistic understanding of the financial behavior of these two distinct populations. We used financial diaries to collect data on income, consumption, savings, borrowing and lending from a sample of poor households over a period of six months. Our research subjects were mostly women. In general, the study found that these populations shared a similar practice of diversifying portfolios of savings, borrowing and insurance products. At the same time, the research found evidence of diverse financial needs of the rural and urban poor. Mainly, the study found that the two disctinct populations differ in (a) the activities for which they use the various financial tools and (b) the degree of access to a diversified portfolio of services.

Click here to read executive summary.

Social Networks of Mobile Money in Kenya

With mobile money technologies, people use mobile phones to send money to friends and relatives, connect to bank accounts, and make payments. This research examines the role of mobile money in Kenyans’ social and economic networks. Research reported was conducted in Bungoma and Trans-Nzoia Counties in Kenya, and among Kenyans living in Chicago, Illinois in the summer of 2012.

Although mobile money services are often described as a form of “banking,” most users in Western Kenya use mobile money as a social and economic tool through which they create relationships by sending money and airtime gifts. A wide range of mobile money uses includes social gifting, assisting friends and relatives, organizing savings groups, and contributing to ceremonies and rituals.

Even though mobile money was designed for person-to-person transfers, its practices are best understood as created by collectivities and groups. In savings groups, groups of siblings and other relatives, and communities who contribute to ceremonies, users “save with others” through the entrustment of value to kin and friends and create new groups and communities based around the “floating world” of mobile technology. Individuals balance their social and economic capital in order to create marginal gains and mediate the conflicts created between social obligations and personal economic betterment. Ties to and through mothers are prominent in social networks of mobile money flows. Matrilineal kinship ties are a means of sharing or circulating money among those marginalized from access to other resources and forms of value.

Click here to read the executive summary.

Effects of Mobile Money on the Savings Practices of Low-Income Users - the Indian Experience

In 2011, sixty-five percent of India’s population did not have access to a bank account (Global Findex 2011). India has the second largest financially excluded poor in the world with more than half of its population considered as financially underserved At the same time, India is one of the fastest growing markets for mobile phones. Given the rising mobile phone usage in the country, M-Banking has a great potential for enabling financial inclusion of the poor. India has attained near universal telecom access with one of the lowest–cost retail distribution networks. Among the myriad M-banking services currently underway, EKO’s Simplibank offers one of the most promising initiatives in mobile money operating on a low-cost banking platform. Launched in 2007 through a partnership between the start-up company EKO and the State Bank of India (SBI), this mobile money service initially operated as a pilot project in the cities of Delhi, Bihar and Jharkhand. By 2011, EKO had captured a wider consumer base as a business correspondent of SBI through its new product for domestic remittances. EKO partners with a network of agents—chemists, grocers, airtime vendors—to provide banking services to people with no access to formal bank accounts.

This paper explores the everyday use and effects of EKO mobile banking. It discusses findings from a recently concluded study of 160 customers, 20 customer service points (CSPs)/agents, and key functionaries of EKO in Delhi.

Click here to read the executive summary.  
Understanding Social Relations and Payments Among the Poor in Ethiopia

Most studies of mobile money for the poor focus narrowly on questions of technical design and  pay little attention to the various needs of the poor and their complex relationships with money and financial services.  In order to fill the current knowledge gap and to better inform the design of new mobile money systems for the purpose of financial inclusion, this study investigates social relationships and payment practices among the poor in rural Ethiopia. A study of existing payment practices in Ethiopia is pertinent especially given the recent proliferation of various mobile money initiatives. Two key questions face mobile money professionals and scholars of financial inclusion alike: How will these mobile money initiatives reach out to the local population? How will they incorporate existing (albeit unbanked) financial practices? This paper aims to lay the ground for designing mobile money products and services that cater to local institutions and practices. The paper, therefore, explores the social dynamics of various local financial practices—informal savings and loans institutions, monetary and non-monetary gifts, and payments to people with power and to deities.

Click here to read the executive summary.

Hidden in a Coke Bottle: Modernity, Gender, and the Informal Storing of Money in Philippine Indigenous Communities

This paper explores modernity and gender in a traditional society, focusing on the informal storing of money among indigenous populations in the Philippines, through 69 semi-structured interviews and observations. In these indigenous populations – Bontoc, Tagbanua and Higaonon – traditional forms of money are utilized side by side the modern form depending on the type of transaction. Money storage patterns differ by gender, arising from varying comfort zones, spending frequency, and amount of money stored. Modernity reworks traditional gender relations between spouses where money becomes a source of conflict, as they maintain tradition and absorb modern ideas of individuality and empowerment.

About Calculations and Social Currencies: Indigenous Househoulds' Financial Practices in the Highlands of Chiapas

The article focuses on the frameworks of calculation and margins of calculability accessed by indigenous families in their financial practices. In a region that is considered one of the poorest in Mexico and still largely based on a “milpa system”, barter and the “reciprocal hand,” the indigenous way of life is facing important changes. We argue that arithmetic is signified in the light of beliefs, fears and hopes in the struggles for certainty and adaptation and negotiations with modernity.

Managing Risks: How do Poor Households Smooth Their Income and Consumption? (An Examination of Poor Households in Yogyakarta, Indonesia)

This paper examines the various practices used to achieve income and consumption smoothing amongst the poorest households in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It looks at selected 125 households, representing 25 households in each of the five regions of the Yogyakarta area. It designated how rural financial institution and other can help them to have better smoothing strategy. We found that the behaviour varies in response to the types of profession and gender. Furthermore, the source of the income fluctuation also matters in determining households’ responses. However, the source of the consumption fluctuation did not appear to differ across professions.

Small Ruminants as a Source of Financial Security: A Case Study of Women in Rural Southwest Nigeria

The important role that small ruminants’ husbandry play in the lives of women in rural Nigeria cannot be overemphasised. This is attributable to the income generating potential of these animals as it forms a major source of credit that is easily accessible to these women in meeting immediate and urgent financial needs. Findings from our study in southwest Nigeria indicated that about 68 percent of women in the study area utilised part of the income generated from small ruminants’ rearing to meet the welfare needs of their members and settle unforeseen financial demands such as paying hospital bills (10.4 percent) and assisting relations in emergency situations (7.8 percent). However, the most preferred of the small ruminants is goat because its consumption and marketability has no religious or cultural restrictions and the least preferred is swine. Meanwhile, because education and poverty status of respondents were found to be important determinants of income realised from small ruminants' husbandry, there is the need to build capacity of respondents through proper education and knowledge of family planning techniques will help to moderate family size in the study area.

Network Linkages and Money Management: An Anthropological Purview of the Beesi Network amongst Urban Poor Muslims in the Old City Area of Lucknow, India

This study is an ethnographic account of the Shia population attached to Zardozi (embroidery) in Lucknow, who are reeling under intense poverty and suffering as a result of pittance. This study contributes to the linking of micro levels of analysis of money management through informal financial network of Rotating Services and Credit Association (ROSCA), popularly known as Beesi, among the poor skilled Zardozi (embroidery) workers in Lucknow. The research facilitates verbatim accounts of embroidery workers about what they want, what they expect of themselves and how they make their choices that they can make. The study is open to a wide spectrum of readers belonging to developmental studies, economics and microfinance who are interested in understanding real life situations confronted by the poor in third world countries.

School Fees, Beer and 'Meri': Gender, Cash, and the Mobile in the Morobe Province of Papua New Guinea

We combine the perspectives of the anthropology and sociology of money with user-centred design to explore how the use of cash in rural and remote Papua New Guinea will shape the use of mobile money. Drawing on 13 open-ended interviews, group interviews involving 100 persons, and participant observation over two visits to Morobe province in 2010 and 2011, we found cash is used for school fees, mobile phones, household goods, transport, beer, cards, women and gifting to wantok, that is, people connected by descent or place. Cash is individually controlled and women’s savings are often hidden in pandanus walls or locked cupboards. Women control cash from gardens and the re-selling of betel nuts and cigarettes. Men take the larger share of cash from coffee and control the ‘big money’ from mining. Mobile money, if appropriately designed, can reinforce the privacy and security of cash and savings, facilitate gifting to wantok, and lead to greater financial inclusion of women.

Mobile Money Services and Poverty Reduction: A Study of Women's Groups in Rural Eastern Kenya

With support from the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), Vinya wa Aka Group (VwAG), a women’s group from the Eastern part of Kenya, has trained 21 women’s groups, in seven rural districts of the Province, on issues related to investment, savings, money services and management. As part of that training, each group outlined a strategy for resource mobilization, savings and investment with the aim of reducing poverty within their families and communities. To build on the initial VwAG training, the primary goal of this research study was to investigate the use and impact of mobile money services (e.g. M-PESA, YU and Zap), among the 21 women’s groups, as a tool for poverty reduction in Eastern Kenya. The methodology included in-depth interviews, focus group discussion, participatory observations, review of secondary data and a dissemination workshop, which will be the focus of this working paper.

Nigerian Mobile Money

The Nigeria Mobile Money Survey provides information on an unprecedented scale regarding the Nigerian population’s knowledge and preferences about mobile money. IMTFI is pleased to be able to offer insight into Nigerian trends based on this survey of over 4000,rural and urban Nigerians from every region of the country. In light of the mobile money industry’s interest in Nigeria, and the recent issuing of licenses by the Central Bank of Nigeria to 11 mobile money businesses, we hope that the trends that we have identified here will allow for a better understanding of this important area in its own terms, not just in reference to the mobile money miracle of Kenya.


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