The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) organized 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.