Rural Ugandans bank on OSS-built system


East African cellphone company, Simba Telecoms last week introduced an innovative local money transfer service in Uganda. The system, developed by Cape Town-based Jeshurun Consulting, was built using a variety of open source tools.

The new service, Simba cash, aims to overcome the challenge facing much of the population in Uganda that banks are often inaccessible to rural communities, both through geography and cost.

To use the money transfer service, customers can visit any of the Simba Telecoms branches across Uganda to deposit money. The customer is then given a password which is forwarded to the recipient of the money. The recipient can then take their identification and the password to any other Simba branch to collect the money.

Tectonic spoke to Wayne van der Merwe, Jeshurun's development manager, to find out what open source software was used in building the system.

Van der Merwe said: "The application was developed with an open source Integrated Development Environment from SUN called NetBeans. The language used to develop the application [Java] is provided by SUN and has been open sourced. Finally the application server that the application is deployed on is GlassFish which is also open source."

Simba Telecom group chairman Patrick Bitature said: "Unlike the other bigger banks and money transfer services, we are trying to focus on the non-banked local populations, with a key focus on addressing affordability issues, that have kept many people from using conventional money transfer services."

Transfers will be charged an average of 4 percent. Simba Telecom decided to offer this service to rural areas in association with USAID's Rural Savings Promotion and Enhancement of Enterprise Development (Rural SPEED).