Top-Up with Driver: Digital Money, Transactional Aspirations, and Peerhood in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Research output: Book / Anthology / Report / Ph.D. thesisPh.D. thesis


Across the world, people are enlisted in the so-called ‘gig economy’ either as users or providers of digital services. In this thesis, I examine how digital ride-hailing apps in Indonesia, Gojek and Grab, have evolved from transport to a broader platform of financial services, including privately issued e-money, and how they advocate for the expansion of cashless peer-to-peer (P2P) payment systems. I investigate how their driver fleets are configured as an extended social infrastructure of the app environment and how their algorithmic labour management mobilises drivers to facilitate the use of digital payments by customers of the app. I argue that promoting the notion of peerhood by the companies both obfuscates how their apps configure users to participate in new hierarchical exchange relationships, as well as minimizes the companies’ role as intermediary. Since the circulation of money and data is where their profits are derived and the companies advertise themselves as providers of social equity, I further contend that this transactional constellation camouflages the financial interests that these companies have in generating platform activity. During six months of fieldwork in Yogyakarta, between 2018 and 2019, I explored these transactional dynamics by extensive use of the apps and by meeting both their drivers and customers, along with various fintech industry representatives and other local stakeholders. Through this work, I show that the exchange of digital money through these ride-hailing apps constitutes far more than the financial transaction and contains much more than can be summarized in an elegant acronym.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherIT-Universitetet i København
Number of pages271
ISBN (Print)978-87-7949-050-5
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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