Providing Technical Assistance to Support Open Source Software

The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) is committed to improving the state of open source software in the ICT4D space. In reaching this goal, DIAL created the Open Source Center to convene a vibrant and inclusive community for builders of free and open source software, promoting knowledge sharing, collaboration and co-investment in technology and human capacity to support positive social change in communities around the world.  

In September and October, DIAL provided direct technical assistance to 2 of our open source partner organizations – Mifos and ODK. This type of targeted support allowed ODK and Mifos to invest in projects that are important to their long-term goals despite not having the developer bandwidth.

Mifos is the organization behind the Fineract open source banking system. This system has been used by hundreds of NGOs and businesses to provide payment solutions in low-and middle-income counties (LMICs), primarily in the microfinance space. One of the priorities for Mifos over the past 18 months has been to work on connecting payment platforms together and developing integrations with mobile aggregators and mobile wallets. One of their primary integration targets is the Mojaloop platform developed by the Gates Foundation. In 2019, DIAL helped fund the development of the Mifos Payment Hub, which is an integration package that allows Fineract to connect to Mojaloop and other financial service providers.

DIAL provided technical assistance to do upgrades and fixes in the payment hub to support new features and allow it to work with the latest version of the Mojaloop payment switch. Additionally, the DIAL technical team helped set up a lab environment/sandbox which can be used by developers or financial service providers (FSPs). The sandbox environment connects 4 different banks together, allowing payments to be seamlessly passed from one FSP to another. Developers can use the environment to test out new software products – from mobile wallets to merchant payment systems to bulk transfers. FSPs can use the lab environment in their own integration work.

With this lab environment in place, Mifos can continue to lead in the area of financial inclusion and interoperability. It’s DIAL’s hope that creating open development spaces like this will lead to increased collaboration and connection between organizations.

“The Mifos Initiative is incredibly grateful for the catalytic support DIAL has provided to help lay the foundation of an end to end open source architecture for digital financial services bridging Mifos with Mojaloop and an Open Banking API. [This work] will allow us to more rapidly onboard new contributors and adopters as we take this forward.” -Ed Cable, President/CEO of Mifos

DIAL also worked with ODK, a leading platform for data collection which is used around the world in many different sectors – from monitoring rainforests to observing elections to tracking outbreaks. ODK is rewriting one of their core libraries which is used to convert Excel spreadsheets into forms that can be used within the ODK platform. DIAL’s team worked on this tool to help move it toward a production release. DIAL worked with the ODK team to address several open issues and provide momentum to get this core library (pyxform) to a production ready state.

“It was really helpful to have [DIAL] resolving some long-standing issues. We thought you took great initiative and it was overall a net positive for our community.“ – Yaw Anokwa, Founder of ODK

Integration platforms and labs are critical to innovation and unleashing the full potential of Digital Global Goods that have received so much funding and delivered so much value to the international development and humanitarian sectors. DIAL endorses a whole-of-government or whole-of-organization approach to investing in technology. Our direct support to Mifos and ODK is the start of a larger initiative to demonstrate these principles. In the coming months, we will establish a push-button-deployable integration of Mifos, ODK and iHRIS, demonstrating a sector-agnostic tool suite for registering and paying staff, from salaried employees to performance-incentivized community health workers.

Find out more about our work with open source projects like ODK and Mifos here: https://www.osc.dial.community/