Mobile Money Hackathon — One Click, Two Fronts

From the more than 40 million 3G/4G users in Pakistan, only a few use it to carry out financial transactions. The service providers are eying to increase this number, thus opening new spaces of endless possibilities in terms of how to increase digital financial through disruption.

But the concept of mobile money is still in the initial phases, and both the users and the financial institutions have still much to adopt. Financial institutions are weighing options and processes to back the mobile money technology, while users haven’t been properly wrapped their heads around the security, convenience and benefits.

The GSMA recently organized a Mobile Money Hackathon inviting developers to code with live APIs to solve real-market challenges using both JazzCash and Easypaisa.

The Hackathon Culture
By definition, a hackathon is a code-fest in which computer programmers and other stakeholders participate. They present new product-ideas and also improve upon or build a new software program. The word hackathon is a portmanteau of the words ‘hack’, which means clever programmer, and ‘marathon’, an event marked by endurance. The concept of hackathon is not new for programmers in Pakistan, and an increasing number of corporate entities realize its importance and need. Likewise, the hackathons are also becoming more mature and target-oriented. Nabeel Zubair, a software developer and innovator, expressed that the idea of hackathon is extremely viable in Pakistan in terms of commercial aspect, and has found complete acceptance among the developer community.

Nearly 60 programmers formed 17 teams to participate to compete in the GSMA Mobile Money Hackathon,  envisioned by GSMA, supported by EasyPaisa and JazzCash and executed by Karandaaz Pakistan.

GSMA is the trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, while Karandaaz promotes access to finance for small businesses through commercially directed investments, thereby increasing financial inclusion for individuals through technology-enabled digital solutions.

Sophia Hasnain, Senior Market Engagement Manager for the Mobile Money Program in Asia, explained that their organization has been striving to strengthen the position of mobile service providers in their competitive markets and, “this hackathon is a step forward in that direction. It’s our first mobile money hackathon and the concept of developer community is incredible. Many notable companies have also sent their teams, including PIA and TPS,” Sophia said.

Though mobile money on ‘non-coined currency’ has a long history, it has only recently gained momentum because of the innovative technology ecosystem that is being built around it.

The mobile money solution initially aims to target and subsequently capture the financial sector. “This is where Karandaaz currently engages with service providers to develop options that will enable financial payments through the digital platform”, says Manager Innovation at Karandaaz, Bilal Qureshi.

Currently the number of people relying on technology-enabled digital payment solutions is a small number. According to Bilal, the Gates Foundation funded Karandaaz is working to achieve the 50% mark in digital financial inclusion index. “This hackathon is a first of its kind as it offers live coding through a live interface of the respective service providers.” What makes this Hackathon further unique is that two competitors, Telenor and Jazz have come together on the same platform. “This highlights how important digital payment solutions are to the service providers.”

The Results
After writing code for 30 hours, teams presented their apps and solutions to the judges. The results were as follows:

  • Winners: Queno
  • Runners Up: PayMod
  • Judges Special Recognition: PIA and DotCash

Amongst other prizes, two members of the winning team get a funded trip to compete in Barcelona. The winner and runner-up also get automatic enrolment into the Telenor Velocity Accelerator program.

You can see some photographs from the event, here.

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