RAPID: Technology Adoption during Environmental Jolts: Mobile Phone Use and Digital Services Appropriation during India's Demonetization Crisis

On Nov. 8, 2016, the Prime Minister of India announced that two of the most common currency notes in circulation would be withdrawn at midnight. Citizens had the opportunity to exchange old notes for new ones within the eight following weeks. It was one of the, if not the, largest efforts to demonetize in history. In addition to the economic, financial, legal and organizational challenges, one of the critical impacts of this decision was to promote information technology as a means to reduce people's reliance on cash for transactions. This decision to demonetize, an environmental jolt, allows us to better understand how multiple parts of a complex system, devices, infrastructure, physical and social elements work together and how users respond when a sudden push is made towards going digital.

Start date: 5/1/2017

End date: 4/30/2018

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This research will develop better understanding of how people adapt technology in forced or deterministic contexts. It will explicate how communities with limited technical infrastructures interact wth computing and uncover and create, or not, technological solutions to globally connected problems in human-computer interaction. This research gives us unique insight into the political and local aftermaths of a major policy decision that has direct impact on the daily lives of the population at large. By better understanding how the sociotechnical ecosystems respond to a rapidly changing context can help us be more agile with the kinds of technological solutions we have for these situations. Finally, recognizing India's users who live in low-resource environments as ICT innovators rather than passive adopters of Western technologies has broader theoretical implications, including completely reimagining appreaoches to design in HCI. Specifically, researchers will ask: How is technology, such as mobile phones and apps and Internet access, used to mitigate shortages and uncertainties caused by sudden changes in the rules for financial transactions? How do users tap into their broader technology ecosystems to get their work done when faced with an immediate situation in which their mobile phone systems doesn't suffice? What's the relationship between ease-of-use, the need to use, and the actual use of technology?

This study will help better understand how users adopt and adapt technologies under pressure and through an examination of diverse sub-communities help understand how marginalized populations can be supported through such transitions. Mobile phone market in India, especially for smartphones, is a coveted market by American companies and also largely owned by them and there are many lessons to be learned through this study that are applicable to U.S. firms. Finally, for the U.S. to remain a global leader in technology, it must signficantly enhance the capacity and ability of individuals and organizations and prepare its future workforce to innovate and learn from issues around the globe. This project will contribute significantly towards that goal by development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce.


National Science Foundation, $49,984