Cashless Cities: ‘There Is This Real Danger Of Exclusion’


As the cashless society expands, the poor are forced to comply or they will become even poorer and then excluded from economic life altogether. However, Technocrats are dead serious about ‘no person left behind’.  TN Editor

Scrolling through my online bank statements at Christmas, I was surprised to find I had not removed cash from an ATM for well over four months. Thanks to the ubiquity of electronic payment systems, it has become increasingly easy to glide around London to a chorus of approving bleeps.

As more shops and transport networks adapt to contactless card and touch-and-go mobile technology, many major cities around the world are in the process of relegating cash to second-class status. Some London shops and cafes are now, like the capital’s buses, simply refusing to handle notes or coins.

Could we see a whole city go cash-free? From Seoul to Bergamo, cities big and small are at the forefront of a global drive to go digital. Many of us are happy to tap cards or phones to hop on a bus, buy a coffee or pay for groceries, but it raises the prospect of a time we no longer carry any cash at all.

No spare change for the busker at the station, the person sleeping rough in need of a hot drink, the market trader, the donation box. Although even on-street charity fundraisers are now broaching the world of contactless payments, what might the rise of the cashless city mean for street vendors, small merchants and the poorest inhabitants?

Some experts now fear a two-tier urban realm in which those on the lowest incomes become disconnected from mainstream commercial life by their dependence on traditional forms of currency.

“The beauty of cash is that it’s a direct and simple transaction between all kinds of different people, no matter how rich or poor,” explains financial writer Dominic Frisby. “If you begin to insist on cashlessness, it does put pressure on you to be banked and signed up to financial system, and many of the poorest are likely to remain outside of that system. So there is this real danger of exclusion.”

Ajay Banga, Mastercard’s CEO, has spoken about the growing global risk of “creating islands, where the unbanked transact [only] with each other”.

In India, the question of how the poorest might connect with the digitised world of the middle-class consumer is now of central importance. In November, the prime minister Narendra Modi announced the removal of 500 and 1000 rupee notes from circulation. Part of a wider attempt to jolt the nation into joining the cashless revolution, Modi’s government believes restricting currency and pushing the take-up of electronic payment will help tackle corruption and regulate India’s untaxed, “black” economy.

Saurabh Shukla, the Delhi-based editor in chief at NewsMobile Asia, says he has seen many small “mom and pop” store owners introduce card readers and learn how to use Paytm, a mobile payment platform, over the past two months.

“They realise a big change is here and they are trying to adjust to electronic payment,” he explains. “But they still want to convert back to cash at the end of the working day or the working week. It will be a gradual adjustment. We might not be able to create a completely cashless India, but we can aim to create a low cash economy.”

Read full story here…

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1 Comment on "Cashless Cities: ‘There Is This Real Danger Of Exclusion’"

  1. I live outside Sâo Paulo, the biggest city in Latina America (in size). São Paulo is in Brazil. When I go there, to park my car I need a card called “blue zone” (Zonazul – 2 words, Zona and Azul put together as a slogan) that you buy in news stands etc. I fill it up with the day, month, time, car plate number etc and leave it visible on the dashboard so the fiscal guy, who keeps walking up and down the street, can check it. If I make any mistake I get a ticket. The card is good for 2 hours. Well, that was the good old days. Now this system turned “smart”, so it’s electronic (only). All I need to do is download the APP. Guess what? I don’t have a smartphone. That means simply that I can no longer park my car in São Paulo, period. That’s a soft kind of exclusion, after all who in the world doesn’t have a smart phone, so it’s obviously my fault. Who in their right minds would use a phone only to talk to people? But I felt quite excluded myself. Call me old fashioned. Technocracy is not a good term. When are people going to start talking genocide, military dictatorship, takeover, invasion, extermination, holocaust, slavery and stronger words than “peril” or “exclusion”? I’ll tell you when; never. If they come close to any kind of revolt, even the slightest sign of revolt will be zapped out of existence faster than you can say “Rothschild”. The times to resist this holocaust has gone. Now it’s death or “voluntary sociopathization”. Hey I can create newspeak myself!

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