Bowie State students journey to NC ‘hackathon’ to improve digital financial inclusion

This week, seven students from Bowie State University went on a two-day trip to Fayetteville State University in North Carolina as part of a “hackathon,” during which they brainstormed and tested ideas to improve financial inclusion for banking’s underrepresented communities.

“The focus of this is really to do an intentional effort … to create a product that helps those who are unbanked or underbanked, and underrepresented populations,” said Andrew Mangle, an associate professor of management information systems at Bowie State who journeyed south with the students.

“We’re trying to be intentional about an innovative solution that encourages people who are disconnected to participate in our current banking system in a way that is nonpredatory and inclusive and empowering,” Mangle said.

The unique opportunity is hosted in partnership with the Interledger Foundation and Amtrak’s On Track for Good program to focus on digital financial inclusion for communities often excluded from financial access and empowerment opportunities.

During the hackathon, students worked on projects to address banking challenges and better understand why people fall victim to predatory lending services, such as pawnshops and quick, high-interest loan providers.

After Bowie State and Fayetteville State students collaborated and shared ideas, the working product went to University of Cape Town students, who also are in the program, for feedback.

Jonathan Hairston, a graduate student studying information systems, said this is a unique opportunity that also allows him to get valuable experience for the workforce.

“One of the main things that we’ve seen with the predatory lending is the habitual cycle that those that are underbanked or underrepresented in banking fall into,” he said, referencing cash advance businesses that can charge interest of up to 500%.

“You become pretty much a servant to that, to that cycle, where you’re constantly looking at ways to get out,” he added.

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Cheyenne Corin

Cheyenne Corin joined the WTOP News team in February 2023. Prior to this role she was a Montgomery County, Maryland, bureau reporter at WDVM/DC News Now.

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