FAQ: The WhatsApp Moment and Demonetisation

December 04, 2016

Note: This is an opinion piece written in the form of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document. All the “answers” provided here are merely the opinion of the author.

What is the WhatsApp moment?

At the TiE LeapFrog event in last year August, Nandan Nilekani shared a provocation: “are we at a WhatsApp Moment in finance?” He explained how in 2009, the peer-to-peer messaging space was “disrupted” by WhatsApp. Not because it pushed people to sign-in to all other websites and services using a WhatsApp account, the way Google and Facebook was pushing. Not because it pushed people to keep buying special SMS packs, the way the telecos were pushing. But because WhatsApp embraces an already existing unique digital ID – the mobile phone number – and used it to connect people to each other – using the address book as the already existing “social graph” – and offered messaging service at minimal (data) cost. Furthermore, Nandan shared that in “rural India”, they call WhatsApp nothing but “Free SMS.”

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Research Director at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), India. Lead and contribute to academic, applied, and policy research.

Work at the intersections of digital media, political economy, and state power. Core policy interests include open data and right to information, and (increasingly) platform economy and digital labour.

Member of DataMeet and Open Data Research Network. Founder-Member of India Open Data Association.

Have worked with the Sarai programme at CSDS, Azim Premji University, Pop-Up City, MOD Institute, and Greha.

E-mail (CIS): sumandro at cis-india.org
ORCID: 0000-0001-5724-4557
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