Communicating online microfinance as an effective poverty alleviation tool: a case study of Kiva
Abstract: Microfinance is a significant component of financial inclusion, which has come to the fore in contemporary developmental literature and practice. It has been used as a poster child of millennial development. The various conceptual offshoots that are either symbiotic or causal to online microfinance are laid out here to demonstrate that as a poverty alleviation strategy, the efficacy of microfinance is at best debatable. There is also a positive reflection of online microfinance both cultivating cosmopolitanism and as being representative of a democratization of development. The research here looks at the communication practice of online microfinance – using the largest online peer-to-peer lending site kiva.org as a case study – to see what representations exist. Drawing on Ricoeur's discourse and a textual application of Laclau's chains of equivalence, a content analysis is used to identify what immediate and latent narratives are present. This considers the presence and absence of word chains to convey, construct and conflate meanings through the text. To achieve this, a quantitative and qualitative approach is used to look at the data gathered, and also to contextualise the data through the related concepts set out in the first section. The analysis shows two representations of online microfinance: firstly, a homogenization of meaning that fits a neoliberal discourse, minimizing the problems with microfinance as a development intervention; and secondly, a decontextualization of borrowers, rendering them placeless and apolitical, with the loan itself being of more weight than the life of the borrower.
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