DataHack4FI: Improving Financial Inclusion through FinTech

Sylvana Lewin, Tuesday February 20th 2018

DataHack4FI is back with Season 2 of the successful innovation competition! This year we’re partnering  with insight2impact, a global resource centre that seeks to improve financial inclusion through the smarter use of data. DataHack4FI Season 2 comes to Ghana after Season 1 took place successfully online.

Startups participating in the competition include InvestXD, Agric Connect, TroTro Tractor, Inclusive Financial Technology, InvestED, and Peg Africa. We spoke with insight2impact team member, Renée Hunter, for her insights on DataHack4FI.

What is DataHack4FI?

insight2impact’s DataHack for Financial Inclusion (DataHack4FI) is a Pan-African innovation competition that encourages finance, tech, and data enthusiasts to collaborate in using data and analytics to solve business challenges. The ultimate goal is to create solutions that will extend financial services to underserved communities.

The annual competition pairs aspiring data scientists (known in the competition as ‘data fellows’) with existing tech startups from different sectors. Some participating startups will naturally be FinTechs, but we also have participants that come from the HealthTech, AgriTech, EdTech, transport, or job placement spaces. The beauty of DataHack4FI is that it really shows the power of different kinds of data to enhance financial inclusion – we don’t have to limit ourselves to data that is traditionally found within the financial sector in order to valuably serve our target market!

In our 6 countries (Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia), teams of data fellows and tech startups will attend a variety of masterclasses, meetups, and coaching sessions, to help prepare them for the in-country finals. The winner of each country final will attend the cross-country Grand Finale in Kigali in May 2018.

How does DataHack4FI differ from other competitions?

DataHack4FI looks at the cross-section between different ecosystems. It brings together the data science ecosystem with the financial inclusion ecosystem. While there are many innovation competitions for FinTechs, the DataHack4FI focuses very specifically on harnessing all this innovative power to better serve the financially excluded market.

What are some of your favorite moments and companies from DataHack4FI Season One?

My definite favorite was Face The Gorillas at the Transform Africa Summit last year in Kigali. (Face The Gorillas is the African version of Shark Tank.) After our own Grand Finale, our top teams got the amazing opportunity to pitch on stage (televised!) in front of a group of venture capitalists. Imagine how proud we were when each one of ‘our’ teams got the VCs interested! Long after the Summit had officially closed for the day, our teams were still having meetings with the VCs at our booth, sitting on plastic chairs as the cleaners were already making their rounds for the day. Those were special moments to be a part of!

What are you looking forward to most in DataHack4FI Season Two?

For Season 2, we have changed our approach. Whereas in Season 1 many of our participants were quite early stage startups, we are focusing now on more mature organisations that have already been operating for some time. This means that the solutions can be built using very diverse internal data, as opposed to last year, where a lot of the data used came from survey data, for example. This also means that the solutions are likely to be very diverse and unique, and I can’t wait to see what these tech startups from different backgrounds come up with in the financial inclusion space!

[caption id="attachment_6449" align="aligncenter" width="665"] Participants of DataHack4FI Season Two[/caption]

What are some innovations in African FinTech that you are excited about?

The blurring of sectoral lines, and the realisation that ‘financial technology’ doesn’t have to come only from ‘FinTech’ startups. An AgTech startup might just as well build some ‘FinTech’ into their operations – and the bundling might make the services that much more valuable.

What do you look for in a startup?

For participants in DataHack4FI Season 2, we are looking for a diverse range of technology startups that have made it to market, and have a client base that they are successfully serving. We are looking for individuals that believe in unleashing the power of data as much as we do, and are excited about seriously investing the time to acquire the necessary skills. Moreover, we are looking for people that believe in the importance and possibility of financial inclusion – that believe they can and should profitably provide valuable financial services to the currently underserved target market.

If you’re interested in learning more about DataHack4FI, come out to the MEST Incubator Accra on Wednesday, February 28th at 5:30PM for a DataHack Meetup!