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Breaking Barriers: Empowering the Unbanked with Innovative Tech

Breaking Barriers: Empowering the Unbanked with Innovative Tech

Did you know that 1.4 billion adults globally are unbanked according to the Word Bank? The majority of this population is concentrated in Africa, followed by South America and Asia. It’s time to change that. As a software engineer and an entrepreneur who has dedicated more than a decade to solving problems for the unbanked and underbanked, I know firsthand the struggles they face. The lack of access to smartphones and the internet is a major hurdle. In my talk, I’ll show you how a simple application can make a big impact on this underserved population. During my talk, I will address the following key points:

1. An introduction to the challenges faced by the unbanked and underbanked in accessing financial services through technology.
2. The significance of the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) protocol in providing financial services to the unbanked and underbanked, and its role in bridging the digital divide.
3. Strategies for building and managing complex applications using the USSD protocol.
4. Techniques for interfacing a mobile application and chatbot with a USSD-based application.
5. A demonstration of my toolkit, which will equip the audience with the necessary tools to begin building USSD-based applications.

Bernard Banta

October 07, 2023
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  1. Thank you,
    RubyConfTH 2023

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  2. Bernard Banta
    @Bantab

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  3. Finplus Group
    CTO and Co-Founder
    I work at

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  4. ARC
    Chairman and Co-founder
    rubycommunity.africa

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  5. Nairobi,
    Kenya
    I’m from

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  6. Breaking Barriers
    Empowering the Unbanked with Innovative Tech

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  7. Globally, some 1.4 billion adults remain unbanked.  These
    people are hardest to reach – and more commonly
    women, poorer, less educated, and living in rural areas. 

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  8. Understanding the Challenges
    ● Limited access to banking infrastructure
    ● Low income
    ● Digital illiteracy
    ● High transaction costs
    ● Geographical barriers
    ● Limited connectivity
    ● Informal work

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  9. What phones do they use;
    ● Most of them use feature phones
    ● Minority of them use low-end smartphones
    with minimal internet access

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  10. What can you do with a
    feature phone?

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  11. Rails backend
    server
    Telecommunication
    company
    Feature phone

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  12. How do you develop a
    USSD app

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  13. For a simple app you
    can use conditional
    statements
    Thank you for dialing
    our short code. Please
    select an option below.
    1. Get more information
    2. Support contacts
    3. Request demo
    4. Sales contacts

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  14. case user_input
    when '1'
    # Send an SMS about more information
    when '2'
    # Send an SMS about support contacts
    when '3'
    # Log demo request
    when '4'
    # Send an SMS about sales contacts
    else
    # Display invalid input
    end

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  15. How about a complex
    app?

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  16. We came up with a
    Component-Based solution
    approach

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  17. We create a USSD tree
    file in JSON format
    compatible with the
    AppNode model
    structure we saw
    previously.

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  18. We generate a tree on
    the DB based on the
    JSON file.

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  19. Class BaseNodeProcesor
    Controller
    Class RequestReceiver
    Class NodeProcessor

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  20. class NodeProcessor1 < BaseProcessor
    def process_request
    # Implement your logic here
    end
    end

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  21. What more can you do with
    USSD?

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  22. - Web browser and
    - Mobile app USSD apps

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  23. Let’s
    Zoom out

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  24. I’d like us to think about
    a few questions.

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  25. Do we easily get swayed
    by new tech tools
    without fully exploring
    the full potential of
    existing ones?

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  26. What other problems
    can USSD solve?

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  27. Are there other real
    problems affecting millions
    of people or even billions
    that can be solved by simple
    innovative tech?

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