A fully funded scholarship for a PhD research on digital finance and sustainable energy in India is being offered in International Development at the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with Scene – an Edinburgh based social enterprise that specialise in community energy and ICT.                                                                                     

Smart Transitions: Digital Finance and Sustainable Energy for All

Digital finance – like pay-as-you-go mobile payment systems - is being championed as a smart innovation that can help countries achieve the UN’s goal of sustainable energy for all by offering people new ways to pay for off grid electricity. Yet the impact of digital finance on energy poverty remains unexamined. There is no empirical evidence, for example, that ‘smart’ or digital payment systems increase the commitments of households or communities in the global south to sustainable energy. Neither has there been any systematic attempt to understand the wider social, political and ethical ramifications of digital finance on energy poverty, indebtedness or the credit relationships of poor people to energy providers.

In collaboration with Scene this collaborative PhD project will critically examine how digital finance is transforming the ways that people without access to banks are paying for energy services. In doing so it will open up new directions for social science scholarship on the relationship between money, debt and electricity in the global south.

Over three years the project will follow attempts to scale up pay-as-you-go mobile payment systems for electricity in rural and urban India, tracking the impact of new electronic payment systems, mobile money and pay-as-you-go technologies on energy consumption practices, and developing new methodological and conceptual tools for analysing the impact of digital finance on poor people’s relationships to energy providers. Key questions will include:

·         What is the political economy of digital finance in the sustainable energy sector?

·         How does digital finance transform debt relationships between energy suppliers and consumers?

·         What are the implications of digital finance for personal data?

·         What are the conditions under which digital finance increases the access of households or communities to cleaner or more efficient energy technologies, transforming patterns of energy consumption?

·         What is the role of civil society organisations in advocating for greater transparency around issues of credit and data in digital payment systems, and in the community management of energy infrastructures?

Closing Date

The closing date for applications is Friday, 10th June 2016. Skype interviews will take place in the week of the 20th June.

Start Date

The successful candidate will start in September 2016, at the University of Edinburgh.


Interested applicants must hold a strong postgraduate level qualification (MA or MSc) in International Development, Social Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies, Sociology or Human Geography. Evidence of field based research experience or professional experience in the international energy access sector would be an advantage.

Successful applicants will be offered scholarship support at RCUK rates (including EU/UK fees, a stipend of at least £13,590 and research expenses. In addition, they will have the opportunity to work closely with Scene in Edinburgh, as well as at a partner field office in India. Please note, UK citizens are eligible for both the full scholarship and the stipend. EU citizens are eligible only for the scholarship. Full details of eligibility can be found here.

To Apply:

Email a PDF copy of your CV and a covering letter (2 pages max) explaining your suitability and motivation for applying to jamie.cross@ed.ac.uk and vijay.b@scene.community