Serge Belamant has labored with a variety of firms in various industries however it’s his talent and fervour for coding digital monetary transaction software program which constructed him the repute as a legend within the know-how business. His legacy is a transformative influence on the worldwide banking business, specifically, his know-how that allowed virtually 10 million beneficiaries in South Africa to obtain month-to-month grants safely and securely.
Belamant based Net1 Applied sciences in 1989 specializing within the creation of common digital cost programs, or UEPS, and holds a patent for the Funds Switch System (FTS). Identified for his genius in monetary programs, he was approached by VISA in 1995 to design a chip offline pre-authorized card (COPAC) generally known as the chip-enabled credit score and debit playing cards which, in several types, is broadly used all around the world in the present day.
In 1999, Belamant bought Money Fee Providers (CPS) from the First Nationwide Bank of South Africa. On the time CPS was a system that paid all of the welfare grants throughout the RSA. The antiquated system wanted modernization in paying out grants to tens of millions of South Africans, who predominantly lived within the rural areas of the nation.
Arguably Belamant’s best achievement was successful the contract from the South Africa Social Safety Administration (SASSA) to pay all social grants all through South Africa. Previous to 2005, SASSA didn’t exist and welfare grants have been managed by provincial social welfare departments. Net1 Applied sciences and Serge Belamant reformed the cost programs that allowed 10 million South African beneficiaries to acquired grants every month safely and securely.
At its peak, Net1 Know-how serviced greater than 10,000 pay factors month-to-month – a large community amounting to roughly R160 billion a yr which is 15% – 20% of the nationwide authorities spending funds. Serge Belamant talked to us in regards to the sluggish adoption of biometric know-how within the sector and what this might imply for the way forward for social welfare and banking in South Africa?
How did you provide you with the concept of biometric know-how to assist the welfare funds of South Africans?
“Prior to the introduction of biometric technology, many beneficiaries did not receive their payments due to corruption and fraud. With paying out so much money in benefits you are always going to have people who will abuse the system. There were members of staff who worked for the government who would register themselves instead of their clients. By doing that they would receive the grant instead of the legitimate beneficiary.”
Belamant went on to elucidate, “Sometimes fraudsters would set up ghost registrations pretending to be a beneficiary and collected unauthorized payments from the RSA welfare system. Elderly beneficiaries had their cards stolen or taken from them often by family members. Because of this, we knew a digital PIN wouldn’t be secure enough to keep cards from being stolen and used by others.”
“Biometric technology meant using fingerprints for identification purposes. All we needed to do was to capture the fingerprint, store their fingerprint directly into the card at the time of registration. If a card was lost stolen, it made no difference whatsoever because the card could not be used by anyone other than the person who had registered their fingerprints. In addition, we could check that the person was also registered on the HANIS system.”
“The card could not be borrowed by anyone unless of course, the beneficiary selected to allow his partner to use the card” or one other licensed particular person of their alternative. We might retailer all their fingerprints on the identical card, however wherever the transaction occurred, we at all times knew who had really carried out and authorised the transaction. In case of an audit, let’s imagine to the beneficiary, “We know this transaction wasn’t you. It was your wife, or your son, daughter, or another authorized person who withdrew the cash.”
How was this biometric know-how acquired by the federal government?
“It was received extremely well because previously, these services were often delivered by less reputable companies. Paying out nearly 10 million beneficiaries on a monthly basis was a huge undertaking and we had to ensure that the people entitled to these grants were in fact the ones who received these.”
“With biometric know-how, it meant that any future grants distributed for no matter purpose together with unemployment advantages would attain the poorest of the poor. It might additionally allow future social applications to be managed throughout the identical system utilizing the identical registration, utilizing the identical biometrics and the identical distribution platform that might have all the bells and whistles required to adapt itself to the longer term.
As you possibly can think about, the logistics of managing 17, 000, 000 grants a month was a severe problem however Belamant was in a position to remedy it by merging a variable pin and the development of a 1: N Biometric comparability engine which allowed SASSA to function for seven consecutive years with out incident. Grants weren’t solely delivered securely, however they have been additionally delivered with velocity.
The place do you see the way forward for biometric know-how?
“Bringing concepts to life isn’t at all times straightforward and the primary few years of Net1 Applied sciences have been slightly tough. Initially, it was exhausting to get banks to just accept UEPS and FTS which types the premise of this know-how. It was solely by persevering with to problem myself by trying to determine the foundation reason for the issue which was to achieve these beneficiaries who lived in underdeveloped rural areas of South Africa.”
“One thing that was very important to me at the time, was knowing the welfare system needed new technology to eliminate corruption and fraud and ensure that the poorest of the poor could receive grants regardless of where they lived in South Africa. We designed a system that now allows the government to distribute grants, quickly, and securely which means millions in South Africa have access to a financial system that works.”
This know-how has many makes use of sooner or later particularly within the growing world the place connectivity, lack of training, and infrastructure are missing.
Moreover, the UEPS/EMV system can also be designed to fight any cyber assaults by extortion teams or terrorist organizations. It’s increasingly possible that these organizations might destabilize economies by merely stopping transactional banking. The UEPS/EMV answer operates offline and it’s thus inconceivable to dam its operation. Grants and salaries can proceed to be paid offline utilizing the UEPS automated credit score facility. These options be sure that the larger inhabitants will proceed transact even when banking programs as we all know and use them grew to become dysfunctional.
Because of the success in South Africa, Net1 Applied sciences subsequently signed offers in Botswana, Burundi, Namibia, Ghana, Iraq, and Russia to call a number of. The corporate continues to supply social welfare cost distribution providers to the nation’s massive unbanked and under-banked inhabitants.
Below his management till his retirement in 2017, Serge Belamant took Net1 Applied sciences public in 2005. Net1 accomplished an preliminary public providing and listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market. In October 2008, Net1 listed on the Johannesburg Stock Alternate (JSE) in a secondary itemizing, which enabled the previous Aplitec shareholders (in addition to South African residents typically) to carry Net1 frequent stock straight. Serge Belamant modified the way forward for banking globally and given his management over 27 years at Net1 Applied sciences, you would need to conclude he’s the founding father of technological social entrepreneurship in SA.
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