A major challenge that has continued to bedevil African businesses is lack of data. In Africa, data are not frequently produced, produced on time, are not accurate, not properly managed, etc. This prevents businesses from making data driven decisions.
An article by The Economist in 2017 titled “Data, the oil of the digital era” revealed data as the ultimate tool businesses, politicians and government can use to make better and more informed decisions.
Izifin, an Artificial Intelligence focused Embedded software provider, is empowering all businesses, despite their size or sector, in leveraging data to better serve their customers.
Benjamindada.com caught up with Dr. Dumebi Okwechime, the Founder and Chief Data Scientist, to speak on what Izifin is doing, where they are currently, and how Embedded Intelligence will drive the business of the future.
Here’s why businesses should use Izifin:
Embedded Intelligence: This alleviates the need for a technical team as you can integrate technology easily. You also don't need an analytical data background as you are provided easy to use tools and equipment providing digestible analytics to serve your business.
Affordable: You don't need to pay an exuberant amount of costs hiring a data team or hiring expensive consultants because our products are affordable and pay as you go, with the flexibility to enable and disable Intelligent Apps. We also don't charge upfront costs, or for any maintenance and upgrades.
Note: The interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
Meet Dr. Dumebi Okwechime, Founder and Chief Data Officer of Izifin
Dr. Dumebi Okwechime built working experience with top companies in the financial service industry in the UK and Nigeria. Now he is building Izifin to create Embedded Intelligent Apps for businesses to run easy to integrate Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) technology at an affordable rate, without data analytics capabilities or skills.
Before Izifin, Dr. Okwechime was Head of Data Science at BarclayCard UK where he was responsible for helping the bank monetise and leverage their data. After he moved back to Nigeria, he worked for Renmoney as Chief Decision Scientist, and at Kobo360 as a Chief Data Officer.
What's Izifin all about?
The idea behind Izifin was “how do you make Artificial Intelligence easy for African SMEs”. How do you take out all the complexities and reduce the cost and entry barriers for any business who wants to leverage this technology?
The days of running a successful business but ignoring data and what it's telling you about your customers, products, and competitors, are gone. — Dr. Dumebi Okwechime
The days of running a successful business but ignoring data and what it's telling you about your customers, products, and competitors, are gone. Now, everyone must pay attention to data. Although it’s still challenging to acquire quality data in the African market, the good news is that it’s getting easier and cheaper.
Data can be acquired from multiple digital outlets such as customer visits to social media channels, websites, mobiles apps, etc. There are also more 3rd party data providers that sell data and provide access via digital integration. But, how do you use all that data to make your business grow faster?
At Izifin, we work with companies, mostly SMEs, (although we do have Corporate customers) by using data to automate complex processes, accelerating business growth which would otherwise be impractical via any other means. This is without needing an increase in workforce and manual touchpoints, which are expensive and provide poor user experience.
Our most popular product right now is Credit Risk Decisioning. This service helps businesses use historical customer data to automatically assess credit-worthiness of customers, how much to lend and how much to charge for the loan based on their risk profile.
We also work with other avenues of Artificial Intelligence such as Computer Vision and Image Processing, solving problems like how to improve the security in KYC of your onboarding process, leveraging phone cameras to verify a person’s identity against a government issued ID.
Our technology allows you to photograph your vehicle and extract all the necessary data about the vehicle such as the colour, manufacturer, licence plate, and the severity of the damage, enabling insurance claim approval immediately without needing an agent to physically go to the incident of the vehicle damage.
We’re also working on ways to make finance simpler. Particularly for those who don't have smartphones, who can't read or write, and even those who only speak their native language and not English.
So far we've been doing well. With only 5 months in business, we’ve secured 8 clients, with a healthy pipeline of several more. We also have our first international client, demonstrating that A.I. is a global business. We've acquired our first tier 2 bank as well as a number of other financial institutions, although we operate across multiple industries including E-Commerce, Healthcare, Merchant Aggregators, to name a few.
What is embedded intelligence?
Embedded Intelligence enables businesses to easily integrate a range of Artificial Intelligent (A.I.) Apps, helping them automate, scale, and optimise complex business processes whilst also empowering more data-driven decisions. This is without needing specialised data & analytical skills, or incurring prohibitive costs for setup.
These Intelligent Apps provide a number of sophisticated digital capabilities, including but not limited to; automatic credit-risk decisioning, market leads prioritisation, anomaly detection (transaction monitoring), loan collection scoring, KYC image verification, and conversational finance (natural language processing).
Related Article: Payment service and Financial Inclusion in Africa
How will data influence businesses going forward from now and bridge the gap in financial inclusion?
There's a number of reasons why financial inclusion is what it is now. One of the reasons is insufficient data to risk-profile individuals.
The statistics currently stand at 15% penetration of credit bureau data, so, what do we do with the rest? Where this is all heading is being able to use alternative means of data to risk-profile individuals and businesses which is what Izifin aims to do.
There are 3 things to consider, the first is being able to identify the right channels where credit relevant data resides. Second is, when these channels are identified, making sure the data is collected and the quality is maintained. The third is, making the channels accessible. One area a lot of businesses struggle with is being able to access these alternative channels of data to make decisions.
So at Izifin, we are actually part of that journey, behind the scenes we've been working closely with a number of companies that hold data in massive amounts. We do our best to see if we can develop a collaboration with a lot of these data-holders or data-entities to be able to leverage their data to better serve the market.
Regardless, businesses can still benefit from their own in-house data, not necessarily needing to rely on third party sources. However, collecting, validating, and maintaining quality in-house data can be difficult, an area most businesses struggle due to a significant number of manual data entry points, prone to errors and inconsistencies.
Nonetheless, there's an aggressive shift with companies realising that quality data and good housekeeping can benefit their business greatly, as we’re noticing several companies actively progressing through digital transformations to minimise manual intervention of data entry points.
At Izifin, we’re specialised at using alternative data to make credit-risk decisions, helping credit lenders and companies extend their facilities further to more of the underserved market.
What are the core benefits Izifin is offering to businesses?
Our Products (called Intelligent Apps) reside in API formats which are easy to integrate, so clients don't need sophisticated technologies or technical teams.
We use pay as you go pricing which means clients pay per API call costs only. There's also the flexibility to pause and pay, so customers can manage their costs by being more careful with the number of API calls they make.
Izifin offers alongside its Intelligent Apps an Analytics Dashboard, providing businesses visibility and levels of control of their Intelligent Apps, digestible enough for non-technical or analytically inclined businesses or teams. That way, businesses don't just deploy our technology but also get to see what is going on behind the scenes.
What we've noticed as well is that some of our clients want us to add additional features to our Analytics Dashboard, so they can have all relevant information about their business in one place.
How does AI help businesses generate and analyse data?
A.I. has given us the ability to move away from some of the more manual or conventional ways of working with technology. Machine learning allows us to calculate across significantly larger dimensions of data to provide a unique perspective, otherwise difficult for humans to do, providing predictive, forecasting, and analytics prowess, and the data-driven insights to run a successful business.
How has it been building for the African audience?
Awareness on how to collect and maintain quality data is not common amongst many businesses, as numerous still rely on collecting data manually on physical paper, with little to no validation and verification checks.
We work on making business leaders aware of the essential roles the channels of data play in data acquisition, and at times, we also support teams in putting the necessary skills, training and tools in place to make sure the data is better collected. This is amongst some of the value-adds we give our clients.
Since COVID, businesses are realising that the competitive landscape is changing, customer’s expectations are changing, wanting products and services faster and more remote. The days of visiting a bank branch with a paper form and passport photo are limited.
The digital transformation age is accelerating in Africa so businesses are realising that they must do more to remain competitive. Consequently, it's only a matter of time for the digital maturity of the market to peak. To that end. Izifin has arrived at the right time to support businesses through this journey.