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TAKING HEART

PayPal pays back - with technology

The online payment systems company uses its fintech prowess to help NGOs and charities solve their problems.

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After helping six non-government organisations and charities to find fintech solutions to their challenges, PayPal employees participated in a 30-hour hackathon (or computer programming session) to implement their ideas.

A CHILD sexual-abuse prevention programme run by Singapore Children's Society now has a new tool to help children learn about how to protect themselves from sexual abuse.

It takes the form of a mobile-friendly app that works like a game, creating an interactive component for children; the app can also be used by parents and guardians to teach their children or charges how to recognise, and thus prevent, sexual predation.

The app, as yet unnamed, was created under PayPal's InnoWave initiative, with which it reaches out and gets into partnership with local non-government organisations (NGOs) and charities to help them find innovative solutions to the challenges they face.

The online payment systems company is in partnership with six organisations this year for this initiative, which incorporates collaborative computer programming (a hackathon called Opportunity Hack) as a way to design solutions.

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This is the first time PayPal is partnering with local NGOs and charities this way, after having seen the success of similar programmes in San Jose, Austin, Chennai and Bangalore.

PayPal wanted to make social impact the theme of this year's event, which was held on Nov 22 and 23 at their offices in Suntec City.

InnoWave initiative

Phoram Mehta, head of infosec at PayPal Asia-Pacific, said the SG InnoWave Business Challenge and Opportunity Hack programme lasts eight weeks. During this time, teams of its employees work with their assigned organisation. The PayPal teams then implement the idea they came up with during the 30-hour hackathon.

The InnoWave initiative not only helps these non-profit organisations and NGOs apply digital solutions to the challenges they face, but gives PayPal employees the opportunity to hone their skills as well.

Lin Xiao Ling, deputy director of advocacy and public education department at the Singapore Children's Society, said that besides children, the organisation wants to reach out to their parents and educators too.

She said that having a resource like the app means that parents can share easily with their children body-safety messages.

"PayPal has helped us develop an app on child sexual abuse prevention, which certainly will spread this message further. They have also helped us build an administrative backend system to manage our data, which will make our work more efficient," she said.

She expressed hope that there would be a formal programme with a tech support component to enable the charity to troubleshoot problems that may arise from the app.

Another organisation that has benefited from PayPal's initiative is Aidha, a non-profit group that provides financial-literacy education to foreign domestic workers and lower-income women in Singapore.

Aidha presented two challenges to their PayPal team that they needed help with: one was to develop online tools to strengthen their curriculum, and the other, to develop a chatbot to handle questions and pre-registration of new students through their Website and Facebook page.

As with the Singapore Children's Society, an app was created for Aidha. Jeanne Bellec, marketing and development specialist in Aidha, said: "The app encourages our students to better track their expenses and budget, and help them to save more and better manage their money."

Aidha will work with its mentors to start using the app next year as part of their training module. She added that Aidha would be happy to continue its partnership with PayPal, to work on other projects or to upgrade the solutions PayPal came up with.

Committed to using fintech as a force for good, PayPal wants to help in areas such as education, empowerment of women, the arts, and financial literacy.

Mr Mehta said: "At PayPal, we are passionate about giving back to the wider community and using fintech to advance causes that can solve problems, improve lives and promote a more inclusive society."