Dinis Guarda, CEO of Humaniq talks to Hiwot, the Editor of African Finance and Tech through Humaniq's concept, the challenges they face and an insight into how they are using blockchain technology for financial inclusion.
Tell me about the work you do at Humaniq and the concept?
Humaniq is on a mission to bring new mobile financial services to help the two billion unbanked people around the world who have no access to the digital economy. Our goal is to help lift people out of poverty by providing them with a financial inclusion circular economy P2P platform app that includes blockchain foundation technology and biometric identity, a mobile device and a financial application that aims to give them access to microloans, donations, peer to peer lending services and even a digital work ecosystem similar to fiverr where they can multitask on their phones, similar to what Amazon Mechanical Turk does.
What are the challenges your are experiencing and how do you solve them?
One of the main challenges is creating a platform that can feed different populations with education, languages, technology and different cultures. We are talking about going into some of the poorest parts of the planet - where people live on USD$2.50 a day.
Another challenge is what kind of app developer and how do we deliver phones, how do we teach them how to use the app and devices. Infrastructure is also an issue - internet is very limited and access can be expensive or not even available in some of these places. But we have a great team in various continents and countries and some great ideas around how to solve these problems. Some solutions include partnerships with international global telecommunications partners, using satellite technology which is coming down in price over the next few years and will be competitive with telecom services due to Kband low-orbiting satellites and new receiver technology. Google and Facebook and other major tech media players are also working on this and investing heavily and we aim to work with as much as possible big and small players.
Most of the international and local banks don’t service these markets - as they are financially unfeasible due to the archaic design of the banking industry itself which is laden with paper-driven analogue methodology and costly clearance mechanisms. Humaniq offers a simple to use financial inclusion app and platform based in blockchain technology and a network of major innovative Fintech players that solves the problem of clearance with near-zero cost transactions. Also we are building a biometric technology that solves the problem of identity and security and mobile offering the delivery system into the emerging markets. It’s an area of expertise that most of traditional banks and financial organisations are technologically not prepared to navigate. But we are.
What influenced your decision to build Humaniq on blockchain technology?
Humaniq, as a company, or as a project is a technology and digital transformative platform. Humaniq as a mission, which is to include a huge number of people in the global financial economy needs to use the most advanced technology available. Blockahin is a foundational technology, decentralised and a concept also that is aligned with our mission statement.
Blockchain technology has the flexibility and capacity to solve the problem of clearance with near-zero cost transactions and gives us the security we need. We need blockchain to create our own digital assets via tokens in order to facilitate this new economy.
What is involved in your loan verification process?
We have been studying various international models and case studies and we will use particular the KIVA model microlending, which invests 80 percent in women and has a return rate of over 97 percent on P2P loans. We also focus on a strong ambassador program and relations with local communities, churches, schools, Universities and will have have people on the ground in the beginning to monitor activity, plus our microlenders from the West have a direct mobile relationship with the lendees. KIVA has delivered over one billion dollars using this model.
How can one participate in the upcoming Initial Crowdfunding Offering (ICO)?
Simply go to www.humaniq.co from April 6-27, 2017 and buy coins - with either bitcoin, ether. The process is very easy.
Users are usually wary of submitting their biometric information because of its individual uniqueness and importance. What happens if, for example, somebody gains access to a user’s account by obtaining their photo?
Our biometric technology options include a combination of voice, face and fingerprint. We are determined to respect the data of our users and use for that the most advanced encryption and the security of the blockchain P2P ecosystem. We don’t see this as a problem.
Are there other verification steps? How have you ensured security of the biometric information submitted and what measures have been put in place to prevent fraud?
The information submitted will be held in a central database until blockchain technology evolves to the point where we are comfortable putting it in a public shared database. At that point we are also considering moving the entire framework over to a DAC run completely on smart contracts.
A recent report shows that smartphone sales are slowing down in Africa and feature phones today still account for one in five of all mobile phones bought worldwide. Since Humaniq can only be used on a smartphone, how do you plan to financially include people without smartphones? Are there any plans for USSD or similar technology that can be used on feature phones?
We are conscious there is a lot of work to be done. One of our goals is to increase access to smart phones. All phones are increasing having smart phone features so we are confident there will be solutions for that both through partnerships and other things related. We will be also doing a big effort to delivering phones into the market - free, first… in our pilot programmes - then working out lease
programmes as we will expand where they earn money to pay back their phones in various ways.
Internet penetration in Africa is still considerably lower than the rest of the world, how do you perceive that this might affect the use of Humaniq on the continent?
We have looked at this problem and are seeing various solutions. The most obvious one is through partnerships with new wi fi providers. We are looking to the sky and other creative solutions. The combination of satellite technology with new low orbiting satellites on the K-band spectrum and new receiver technology from Bill Gates-backed Kymeta in Seattle are about to change the way the emerging economies access over the next five years with affordable, broadband access coming from space rather than expensive internet access from telecom monopolies with poor reach. Google and Facebook are also working on this and investing heavily.