M-PESA: A Socio-Economic Assemblage in Rural Kenya
The role of information communication technologies in development is contested between those who view it as facilitating broad based human development (Waverman et al., 2005; Jack, Suri and Townsend 2010) and those that view it as counterproductive (Donner 2008, Castel et al 2007). Mobile telephony, in particular, is seen as the most techno-social transformation to occur. For instance, at a macro level, Waverman et al. (2005) note that ‘mobile telephony has a positive and significant impact on economic growth and this impact may be twice as large in developing countries’. Kenya’s M-PESA is a case in point.
This paper looks at M-PESA as a site of inclusion and exclusion, focusing on two elements: emerging accounts of M-PESA usage, and security on money transfers. The paper presents M-PESA as a social assemblage by adopting DeLanda’s (2006) assemblage theory, which opens up macro and micro dichotomies. Data obtained from ethnographic interviews shows that although M-PESA is meeting some needs, it also has deterministic tendencies, such as power and gender hierarchy distributions, though complex in nature. The paper has studied mobile money as a socio-economic assemblage that shows the dynamics of social change not as given, but as constantly forming and reforming.