Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], September 9: The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) organised a month-long hackathon to stimulate young minds to develop innovative solutions for financial inclusion in rural areas. The key objective of the hackathon was to create a digital financial services platform that can function efficiently in remote and inaccessible areas lacking connectivity and communication networks. In recognition of their outstanding contributions, cash prizes worth Rs 1 Lakh, Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 were presented to the winners by NABARD.
We, at NABARD, are always looking for innovative ideas to penetrate remote and inaccessible areas and offer solutions to address their pain points, especially in areas of digital financial services. The National AgriFunds Hackathon 2023 provided us with a preview into the brilliance of bright, young minds and it was heartening to witness their enthusiasm in designing solutions for rural India. We will test the winning ideas through pilot projects and plan to take it to the next level," said C. Uday Bhaskar, CGM, NABARD.
The challenge was to design a user-friendly platform for the rural populace that will enable them to conduct various financial transactions and use services such as savings, payments, and access to government benefits, without the need for physical bank branches. Offline functionality, security, adaptability to different devices, and interoperability with existing government schemes and financial institutions were some of the key considerations. More than 800 entries were received, and the shortlisted teams presented their ideas and prototypes. The competition concluded with the announcement of the winners, prize distribution, and felicitation ceremony at the Global Fintech Fest 2023 event.
"We would like to thank NABARD for giving us a platform to showcase our talent, and we are really glad to be part of the Hackathon. People in rural areas face problems in the documentation process while applying for any government scheme. More than 65% of the population in the country uses smartphones; still, people face difficulties using digital financial apps. We thought an SMS-based solution will be a game changer for people living in remote areas of the country, as it eliminates their dependency on internet connections," said Ashuraj Herode, team lead of the winning team, Bit Wizard.
"Lack of basic digital infrastructure such as stable internet connectivity is a pain point for people living in remote villages of our country. It was really a great experience for us to use our technical skills for a good cause. We were pleased to receive constructive feedback from the judges on our solutions. It made us aware of the challenges we would face in terms of scalability. NABARD provided us a great opportunity to showcase our skills and it really helped us in expanding our horizon," said Devesh Chaudhary, team lead of the 1st runner-up Team Devesh.
"We thought of coming up with a payment solution that doesn't require any mobile network or internet connectivity. In rural India, lack of connectivity is a major issue; our solution can help in bridging the gap on that front. This technology will not only be useful for rural regions but also for other parts of the country. We want to scale up this technology and present it to a global audience," said Balaji Anbalagan, team lead of the 2nd runner-up Team PayD.
The innovative solutions presented by the finalists showcased not only the depth of talent but also the dedication to improving the lives of those residing in remote areas. Team Bit Wizard were selected as the winners and Team Devesh and Team PayD were the 1st and 2nd runners up, respectively.
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is an apex development financial institution in India. Established on 12 July 1982, with headquarters in Mumbai, NABARD operates with a mission to promote sustainable and equitable agriculture and rural prosperity through effective credit support, related services, institutional development, and other innovative initiatives. NABARD plays a crucial role in fostering rural development, empowering farmers, and catalyzing the growth of the rural economy.
Finalists and their solutions
1. Team name: Bit Wizard
(Team lead: Ashuraj Herode)
Ease Pay revolutionizes banking with its ingenious SMS-based platform, empowering rural areas by transcending connectivity barriers. It seamlessly registers and securely transacts via encrypted SMS messages, ensuring privacy even in low-internet zones. It combines UPI's robust framework with SMS security. Unlike traditional banking, this zero-connectivity solution employs Bluetooth for transactions. It can also be used for micro loans and advisory services. This holistic approach empowers users to make informed decisions. Ease Pay tends to bridge the technology gap in remote areas, creating a resilient, accessible, and empowering banking solution for all.
Reasons for selection: The solution offers digital financial transactions in remote areas without internet connectivity. It leverages the security of encrypted SMSes and the UPI platform.
2. Team name: Team Devesh
(Team lead: Devesh Chaudhary)
The solution bridges the gap between remote communities and vital financial services. The AI-driven framework transforms communication with natural, human-like conversations with AI bots over a normal voice call, allowing residents in remote areas to interact effortlessly with AI bots. It enables seamless payments, balance inquiry, inquiry about application procedures and government schemes. By harnessing the power of Generative AI, accessibility is ensured, ushering in an era of financial self-reliance for underserved regions, empowering individuals to navigate their financial journey with ease and confidence.
Unique Value Proposition:
* Voice call, even if internet speed is low
* Use of GenAI enables the government to easily add information about new services in LLM
* Personalized Support: Human-like conversations guide users, ensuring secure transactions, while updated knowledge empowers informed financial decisions.
* Reliable financial resource: Offering secure PIN authentication and accurate government scheme information, the helpline unlocks the financial potential of remote areas.
Reasons for selection: The solution offers digital financial services through voice calls. It leverages generative artificial intelligence and makes use of the local language.
3. Team name: Team PayD
(Team lead: Balaji Anbalagan)
PayD revolutionizes financial inclusion in remote areas through WiFi Direct for offline transactions. It employs biometric security and block chain technology. The solution integrates WhatsApp and UPI. WiFi P2P enables offline transactions, while biometric authentication ensures security. Integration with WhatsApp and UPI enhances versatility. Local block chain maintains transparent records. This amalgamation of features empowers underserved regions, advancing economic growth and digital accessibility.
Reasons for selection: The solution offers digital financial services through offline wallets, based on blockchain technology and WiFi.
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