The Murky Truth About Fintech Panaceas
In the last decade, fintech has seen dramatic growth rates the world over, and has increasingly become the buzzword for financial solutions in international development circles. Indeed, if World Bank representatives are to be taken at their word, fintech is the surest route to securing the much vaunted maxim of ‘financial inclusion’; a goal dozens of governments around the globe have committed themselves to pursuing.
However, fintech also represents a convergence point between two dynamics — financialization and datafication — that currently serve as key motors of capitalist accumulation in a stagnant global economy that is only further distressed by the pandemic and the economic fall-out of recent geopolitical tensions. The proliferation of unregulated fintech is deeply intertwined with the workings of corporate power, and the cooption of development concerns into the injunctions of the profit motive.
This month in Datasyn, we explore the undercurrents of the rising fintech wave. We examine up close the regulatory blind spots that have allowed some of the sector’s most predatory avatars to flourish. We also probe the concerning modes of governmentality and developmental solutionism, within which key financial infrastructure in welfare is being surrendered to the hands of private actors, at great risks to citizen rights.
The DataSyn Team
THE BIG EXCESS
Fintech Wild West: Whose Duty to Act?
Turning the gaze onto the abundant, but sparsely regulated terrain of predatory small-loan lending apps in India, Anuradha Ganapathy delineates the grave dangers of fly-by-night new-age fintech businesses. Drawing from first-hand accounts of victims of fraud and harassment, her evocative piece discusses how vulnerable and financially insecure segments of the population are increasingly falling prey to an unrepentant regime of exploitation.
THE POLICY TABLE
Fintech and Poverty in and Beyond the Pandemic
Examining the massive push for reinforcing digital social protections in the wake of the pandemic, particularly with respect to ID systems and digital payments infrastructure, Nick Bernards critically analyzes the flawed thinking behind such models and their pathological proclivities for privatization of the welfare state. His essay looks at the World Bank and Gates Foundation’s G2Px initiative as a paradigmatic case.
The Sins and Synergies Lounge
Ownership of assets in the age of Web3 may seem like an oxymoron, but this has been the main draw of the NFT economy, writes Richard Woodall in this piece for the Real Life Mag.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the increased need for easy loans, as individuals look to offset massive unemployment and health costs. Check out this Type investigation, which deep-dives into the predatory lending tactics of fintech firms in the face of a global crisis.
The use of AI systems within the burgeoning fintech space is in itself a development riddled with dangers and important regulatory concerns. Read this report, where Jai Vipra provides an overview of how this dynamic is playing out in the Indian context.
What happens when Big Tech arrives in the banking industry? Tune in to hear Jorge Padilla, head of economic consulting firm Compass Lexecon, in this podcast on Big Tech Banking, as he comments on the long-term effects of the trend on financial stability and increasing monopolization.
Actual currency or a speculative asset? In an interview with the Jacobin, Stefan Eich, author of the book 'The Currency of Politics: The Political Theory of Money From Aristotle to Keynes', discusses the politics around cryptocurrency and what it means to democratize money.
The Russian war on Ukraine has made its presence across many sectors, and fintech is no exception. CEOs of fintech firms are beginning to consider themselves 'wartime CEOs', even as investments in fintech continue to rise. Verdict provides an overview of this phenomenon.
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