Working Digital Money into a Cash Economy: The Collaborative Work of Loan Payment

Jacki O’Neill*, Anupama Dhareshwar, Srihari H. Muralidhar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This paper examines how different forms of money, specifically digital versus cash, impact on the work of an organisation and its customers. In doing so it contributes to the body of literature exploring the relationship between the social meanings of money and practice. We conducted an ethnographic study of loan collections; specifically, the workflows whereby a social enterprise intermediary managed the loans given to autorickshaw drivers to purchase their auto-rickshaws. Drivers made payments in cash or through mobile money. We found that making the mobile money service usable for the drivers took considerable work. It is tempting to take a transactional approach to payments, and indeed we initially approached the problem of enabling frequent payments as one of payment mechanism. However, in practice, payments take place within sets of social relations and, in this case, usability was achieved because the mobile payment system was embedded in a wider, trusted, loan payment ecosystem. It takes considerable collaborative work, and a fair amount of flexibility, to enable these financially vulnerable drivers to pay off their loans, and reducing the issue to one of payment mechanism alone does not tell the full story.
Original languageEnglish
JournalComputer Supported Cooperative Work: CSCW: An International Journal
Pages (from-to)733-768
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Digital money
  • Digital payments
  • Ethnography
  • ICTD
  • Mobile money
  • Mobile payments
  • Organizational work
  • Payment ecosystem
  • The affordances of money


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