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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Am a researcher with interests ranging across history and politics of informatics, new media and technology studies, and political economy. I am also keenly interested in computational techniques in arts, humanities, and social research, and emerging methodological questions.

As Research Director at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), India, I Lead and contribute to academic, applied, and policy research. The core policy topics that I engage with include open data and open research, e-governance and digital ID, and network economy and digital labour.

Am a member of DataMeet and the Open Data Research Network, and a Founder-Member of India Open Data Association. I have previously worked with the Sarai programme at CSDS, Azim Premji University, MOD Institute, and Greha.

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