Accepted paper:

Political power and digital payments in a government social social cash programme


Atika Kemal (Essex University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates the effects of political power on the design and implementation of digital payments in a government social cash programme in Pakistan. It adopts an interpretive case study methodology to collect primary data through qualitative methods.

Paper long abstract:

The opportunities provided by digital technologies to governments in distributing digital welfare payments, or government-to-person (G2P) payments to poor citizens has had a profound effect on the inclusion agenda in many developing countries. However, paucity remains on research that investigates the motivations behind the transition from cash to digital G2P payments and its effects on institutional practices. Hence, this paper examines the specific context of a government social cash programme in Pakistan that implemented digital payments for disbursing G2P payments to women beneficiaries. It explores how the interplay of political forces with other external and institutional forces affected the design of digital payments for management practices, at the institutional level, for programme managers. Also, how it affected the power equilibrium for other political actors involved in the programme. Through an interpretive case study research, using qualitative methods, primary data was collected through interviews with programme designers and other stakeholders in the G2P programme. The findings conclude that digital technologies were socially-embedded in the organisational context for programme designers and led to the institutional strengthening of the G2P programme, albeit, diminished the power of other political actors. Therefore, the design of digital payments was a socio-political process that involved discourse and negotiation between various social actors. This paper has implications for governments and international funding agencies who are adopting digital technologies to promote the inclusion agenda for its citizens. Keywords: Digital payments, G2P payments, design, qualitative methods, political power, developing countries, Pakistan

panel P01
Power, politics and digital development [Information, Technology and Development Study Group]