When it comes to managing personal finances, Antiguans and Barbudans stand alongside many of the world’s developing nations as only approximately 33% of adults worldwide are deemed financially literate.
This is in stark comparison with a number of northern European countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden ranking at around 71% where financial education is mandatory for 7th through 9th grade students, ensuring that their population knows the fundamentals of how to budget, invest and utilize other various financial skills.
Now financial literacy is by no means a level playing field; there are pretty big discrepancies based on key factors such as income levels. This means that 3 in 4 persons across the Caribbean region lack the necessary skills to better manage their money and consequently become victims to poor decisions such as predatory loans or even scams that end up hampering their socioeconomic status.
However, that doesn’t mean people in nations like Antigua and Barbuda are fated to have poor personal finance management skills. In fact, events like The BRIGHT Hack FinTech Challenge indicate that there are a number of public, private and development entities that are motivated and willing to collaborate to encourage better personal financing decisions and education amongst young people.
Such organizations include the U.S. Embassy Bridgetown, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), the Bankers Association of Antigua and Barbuda (ABBA), the Ministry of Education, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and The LocaL App Inc. With the support of these organisations, the BRIGHT Hack FinTech Challenge hosted a week of activities from September 6 - 8, 2023 that invited students from secondary and tertiary level schools to compete while learning for a chance to win from a prize pool of over $10,000 XCD under the theme: “How can we improve financial infrastructure?”
The event opened with a talk from special guest - Mr. Marcus Kennedy, the former head of the Gaming Division now Chief of Staff for the Treasury at the Intel Corporation. He broke down what financial literacy entailed and how technology that is designed to assist financial transactions is called - FinTech. He even illustrated the sobering statistics about financial literacy in the region with a quiz directed at the students that demonstrated that decision making around financial gains and loss, is often clouded by not understanding basic financial terminology and banking concepts.
This was then followed by a presentation from the Antigua and Barbuda Bankers Association about the national financial landscape; which continues to evolve with a number of mergers and even the introduction of the digital EC Dollar – DCash by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. A lively question and answer discussion ensued as students and even teachers alike, began asking clarifying questions about the banking system.
The following 48 hours consisted of 16 student teams brainstorming and conceptualising their pitches around FinTech solutions to the eight FinTech challenges identified by the BRIGHT Hack organisers, led by entrepreneurship and technology advocate, Elijah James who indicated that BRIGHT is an acronym for (B)oosting (R)enewables and (I)nfrastructure (G)lobally by (H)arnessing (T)echnology and represents an overarching STEM Education programme geared at helping Small Island Developing States (SIDS) advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.
The 8 FinTech challenges were:
1 - Cyber Crime and Cyber Security
Can you provide a solution that improves cyber protection for financial institutions and consumers?
2 - Financial Literacy
Can you provide a solution that helps consumers become more knowledgeable about finance?
3 - Consumer Privacy and Access To Finance
Can you provide a solution that prevents the misuse of data or improves access to financial services?
4 - Budgeting and Loans
Can you provide a solution that helps consumers better analyze how they borrow, spend or invest?
5 - Wealth Management and Investments
Can you provide a solution that encourages consumers to invest or partner in a business?
6 - Electronic Payments
Can you provide a solution that helps to encourage more consumers to spend or accept less paper cash?
7 - Regulatory Compliance
Can you provide a solution that increases the inclusion of unbanked consumers in the system?
8 - Customer Service
Can you provide a solution that improves how consumers and financial institutions interact?
The general public was not left out of the fun as they also were invited to participate in other BRIGHT Hack sessions with Mr. Kennedy including a Gaming and Apps Roundtable to discuss industry trends; as well as a Business CIRCLE (Startup Huddle) event where entrepreneurs discussed Startup Financing.
On the final day, pitches were presented by each team, with the winning 1st Place pitch being delivered by team Sprouts which was composed of students from the Seventh Day Adventist Secondary School. They triumphed over team Nexus which was composed of students from the Antigua State College, the Antigua and Barbuda International Institute of Technology and The UWI Five Islands Campus for 2nd Place; leaving 3rd Place for team Engineers To Be which was composed of students from UWI Five Islands. The judges also offered an honourable mention on the intriguing digital financial advisor concept – Pay Smart to team TKV which was composed of students from the St. Anthony’s Secondary School.
The presented solutions resulted in each member of a winning team taking home a prize:
1st Prizes - Technology Bundles inclusive of 15” Laptops, All in One Printers, Flash Drives, Paper and more
2nd Prizes - Smart phones unlocked android with dual sim
3rd Prizes - Smart watches with multisport feature modes
The hackathon, according to Mr. James, was a delightful success with “many awesome pitches, some of which will be invited to incubate to receive support so they could grow into successful future startups”.
To learn more and follow their journey visit - brighthack.org
Winners of the Hackathon were as follows:
BRIGHT Hack 1st Place - Seventh Day Adventist Secondary School (Team Sprouts)
Green Sprouts: a virtual world gaming app that teaches finance, while offering personal banking services
- Lemario Clake-Damier
- Ajani Edwards
- Reanna Christopher
- Riveyea Brown
BRIGHT Hack 2nd Place – ASC / ABIIT / UWI Five Islands Campus (Team Nexus)
Nexus: an electronic payment service that convert physical cash into virtual cash cards utilizing SMS
- Lesjolene Perez
- Trevaun Solomon
- Razoniqne Looby
BRIGHT Hack 3rd Place – UWI Five Islands Campus (Team Engineers to Be)
Money Mender: an artificial intelligence powered marketplace for consumers and financial institutions
- Christophe Marcellus
- Naelon George
- Emmanuel Delgado
- Shardia Gregory