Although the tech world is advancing at an alarming rate, discouragingly, 23% of women worldwide are still financially excluded. This statistic is overwhelming as we draw closer to 2021 and requires urgent attention. According to the Uganda FINSCOPE 2018 survey, women are 1.8 times more likely to access informal financial services via their village savings groups and co-operatives than formal services. At ModusBox, we view women as agents of change and seek to alter this narrative by providing access to secure financial technology-based solutions.
About the Women in FinTech Hackathon
Through its Include Everyone Program, HiPipo identifies, analyzes, and promotes trends and innovations in Digital Financial Services (DFS). During an event held in Uganda earlier this year, 40-Days-40-FinTechs, HiPipo noted that only 10% of participating FinTechs were women. In a country where 40%1 of all small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are owned by women, it is paramount to increase the participation of women in FinTechs. In September 2020, ModusBox partnered with HiPipo to bring together 15 teams of female-led FinTechs to participate in the Women in FinTech Hackathon, a platform that works to develop products and solutions that help improve the lives of their fellow women.
The underlying theme of the Women in FinTech Hackathon was to foster leadership, innovation, and championing women empowerment. The hackathon introduced ambitious women in FinTech to trending, innovative tech solutions, and networks such as the Mojaloop OSS Community. Additionally, participants produced demo prototypes using Open Source Software testing tools and encouraged women to develop products adapted by mobile network operators, banks, or remittance service providers. Participants gained exposure to a variety of financial systems. They learned how to apply this knowledge to business cases, enabling them to understand how open source systems designed for interoperability, cross-border, and cross-currency solutions are benefiting their customers.
The event organized the 15 teams so that female participants would fill crucial roles in the design of these prototypes. Female industry representatives and business leaders worked closely alongside these participants to provide guidance and mentorship. From the ModusBox team, these women included Judit Molnar, Program Manager, Beatrice Wagate, Senior Security Consultant, and Sridevi Miriyala, Quality Assurance Lead.
The magic of collaboration was on display throughout the hackathon. Besides ModusBox, other partners included ID8, Crosslake Tech, Mojaloop Foundation, and the Level One Project. Together, these partners were able to contribute skills and expertise. As a result of the global pandemic, the event was conducted partially in-person and virtually with many partners participating via Zoom from around the globe. Despite this, partners could still participate as facilitators, mentors, and judges throughout the event. The hackathon was proof that magic can still happen with goodwill and a collaborative mindset during this challenging time.
Our team had the privilege of adding one of the most exciting use cases to the event – the Forex (foreign exchange) Solution. This use case provided teams the opportunity to utilize different currencies in their transactions, requiring them to consider which currency and country they were sending money from. Our goal was to push the teams to think outside of the box when considering use cases for their prototypes.
ModusBox not only built the hackathon lab but also had the opportunity to present practical ways for financial service providers to:
- Test their developed solutions against the system, providing the commands necessary for each use case enabled through the lab
- Quickly and easily onboard to a Mojaloop Hub
- Utilize the security solution and learn how an open source financial solution can be truly secure
- Transact interoperably (P2P, P2B, B2B) across currencies while considering the local regulations of various countries
Our team was impressed by the high quality of event attendees. Their passion meant that the prototypes delivered were conceptually rich propositions about how to engage women in new ways to identify financial solutions that could progress their financial independence. This provided for a number of touching moments and put the event judges in the challenging position of rating and ranking the teams’ work.
What our team learned
At ModusBox, we consider ourselves pioneers in designing and building technology that provides financial inclusion for all. By identifying the demographics most impacted by the lack of interoperability, we empower and guide positive change. Partnering with HiPipo alongside ID8, CrossLake Tech, Mojaloop Foundation, and the Level One Project, demonstrated the importance of empowering female leaders and providing well designed and affordable tools to solve everyday problems for individuals and communities.
Last year’s hackathon only had a few participants. This year we were pleasantly surprised by the tremendous rate of participation from the community. The technological challenge for our team was scaling the lab systems in response to the increased demand while continuing to provide a real-time support experience via virtual tools.
We quickly decided to reconsider the process of onboarding new teams. Our own product, the Mojaloop SDK, dramatically simplified the complexity of adding new teams and interacting further with Mojaloop. Additionally, the way we utilize infrastructure-as-code (IaC) to increase speed and nearly eliminate manual work enabled even faster responses. Not only did this uplevel the hackathon, it also pushed our team to the next level.
Ending on a good note
Events like these, where we genuinely believe in the cause, will always foster great bonding experiences within teams. This collaboration materializes the most significant achievements for our team, our products, and ModusBox’s mission.
One of the event participants, Halima Bukirwa, noted that the hackathon provided her and her team with an opportunity they had only dreamed about. “The Women in FinTech Hackathon turned out to be one of the best experiences for myself and my team,” said Bukira. “From the offset, we were given knowledge and mentored to be the best we can be in creating products that provide real solutions. Learning about aspects like the Level One Principles and getting advice on the business side of FinTechs sharpened our thinking and enabled us, in a short time, to create a viable product. To be chosen amongst the best is arguably one of the greatest achievements of myself and my team.”
At ModusBox, we are on a mission to improve lives by accelerating universal access to reimagined financial services. We believe that technology is the key to driving this access for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. For this reason, we are already looking forward to next year’s event.
In the meantime, if you are interested in becoming more involved in the Mojaloop open source community, learning more about the Mojaloop Lab, or just connecting with a member of our team to further the cause of inclusive finance, start a conversation today.
- “Support for Growth-oriented Women Entrepreneurs in Uganda.” https://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Policy-Documents/GOWE_Uganda.pdf. Accessed 22 Sep. 2020.