Trustworthy Mobile Transactions: A Longitudinal Study of M-PESA in Kenya

Trustworthy Mobile Transactions: A Longitudinal Study of M-PESA in Kenya

Olga Morawczynski (The University of Edinburgh, UK) and Gianluca Miscione (International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-901-9.ch010


This chapter will focus on one vital determinant of m-banking adoption and use—trust relations. It presents the case of M-PESA, an m-banking application that quickly achieved a remarkable local embeddedness in large segments of Kenyan society. Data for this case was gathered during a fourteen month ethnographic study that took place in two locations—one urban and one rural. The chapter identifies four categories of trust (interpersonal, extended, presumptive, institutional) that were a prerequisite for mobile banking, and a lubricant for its sustainability and growth. It shows that institutional trust relations were strong during the early stages of adoption whilst the interpersonal ones were weak. This means that customers trusted Safaricom, the mobile service provider offering M-PESA. They did not, however, trust the agents that facilitated cash in and cash out. The chapter also gives attention to the changing nature of these relations through time. For example, it shows that interpersonal trust relations between customers and agents strengthened with increased interaction. The chapter concludes by identifying areas for future research and delineating recommendations for managers.
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Trust As Theoretical Lens

There exists a wide body of literature on the topic of trust. However, a concise definition of the term remains elusive as it holds a variety of meanings across disciplines. Because we are examining trust in the context of m-banking exchange, we will appropriate a definition that is inherently relational (Kramer, 1999; Mayer et al., 1995; McAlister, 1995; Mishler & Rose, 2001). The starting point to our definition of trust is that it emerges as a property of relations between two or more social actors. These actors can be individuals, or organizations such as corporations and political parties (Smith, 2007). They are interacting in some way and have expectations regarding each other’s future behaviour (Barber, 1983; Dasgupta, 1988). For example, they expect that the other actor will fulfil their obligations, behave in a predictable manner, and will act fairly in situations of opportunism. In this regard, trust is the expectation that actors have of each other, and of the organizations with which they deal.

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