By Mosa Maoeng
The Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) hosted a two day First Innovation Hackathon competition which commenced on Friday 3rd to Sunday 05th December.
The Hackathon was themed: the development of Blockchain based solutions to address customs and tax compliance challenges in the retail sector. The theme calls for development of solutions to improve customs and tax compliance and to help the administration make real-time data driven compliance decisions leveraging Big data, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning technologies.
Speaking at the event, LRA Commissioner Operation Support Mosuoe Mapetla highlighted the main objective of the Hackathon which was to improvise innovation capital. He said innovation capital is one of the pillars of LRA, saying the aim is to open opportunities for other stakeholders to contribute in innovative initiatives. He explained that the Hackathon theme is centred on Blockchain technology, Crypto currency and Bitcoin as well as data analytics.
About 20 people participated in the competition, seven teams and three individuals. Three teams out performed the others as their presentation work had been opted by LRA. The participants were presenting their work basing themselves on Blockchain technology, data analytics, tax fraud detection, tax compliance, non-filing of tax returns, data cleaning as well as automatic compliance. The three teams that outstood the other participants were team VATeran in the 1st place whose participants were Bokang Thola and Karabo Mohapeloa, team Finhack in the 2nd place whose participants were Sehloho Thuso, Mapota Kolosane and Mpho Matla and team Morogo in the 3rd place whose participants were Lebalang Matsepe and Kamohelo Makaka.
All the participants were prize winners. In the 3rd place the winners received a cheque worth M10, 000 from LRA, 4GB modem and 10 GB data each to last for three months, these are sponsored by Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL), the 2nd place winners received a cheque worth M20, 000, 4GB modem and 10GB data each and the 1st place winners received a cheque worth M30, 000 from LRA, smart phones worth M5000 from ETL and 10GB data each.
On behalf of the participants and the winners, 1st prize winner from team VATeran Bokang Thola conveyed his gratitude to LRA for sponsoring such a huge and innovative event. He said it was an enjoyable and yet tiring journey as they had to finalize their work in two days’ time, he said they got the chance to learn new technologies and he is thankful for the opportunity.
LRA Commissioner General Thabo Khasipe had earlier announced that the hackathon was a way of finding solutions in collecting revenue. He had mentioned that the government as the first spender on people, is worth the return from this benefits for it to extend the hand to the needy. He added that compliance should be automatic. Khasipe further said that the richer the person becomes, the more tax they pay. He urged the winners to ease the process, saying innovation capital is yet another source of value.
Khasipe thanked the participants who made the event successful and said he hoped it has been an enriching experience. “I would like to send my gratitude to the winners especially VATeran, panels of judges for the job well done, LRA Management for supporting the entire event, and the sponsors; ETL, Vodacom Lesotho Foundation (VCL) and African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF),” Khasipe noted.