An inexpensive digital system, which combines the opportunity of writing on paper, while concurrently recording the handwritten entries and immediately storing the entries in a digital format, has been launched in India.
Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan, Microsoft’s associate researcher in India, thinks the hybrid digital slate that allows both paper-based and digital record keeping will help store the financial records appropriately.
She said, “We used a hybrid digital slate prototype device that allows both paper-based as well as digital recordkeeping. It comes with an A5-size digitizing pad and digital pen as well as a small touch screen. The ledger book is placed on the digitizing pad and entries are made with the pen in ink. The minute you start writing, the movement of the pen is tracked in the background and all the entries have a corresponding digital copy created.”
“The digital entries are then run through a digit recognition tool and the numbers are fed into a local database on the device. These figures are then processed and instant updates are generated. A financial record management application, based on the paper accounting system used by the self-help group, allows the accounts writer to verify all entries on the screen. Audio feedback in the local language is then played back so that the entries are validated by the members. Once the errors are corrected, the data is saved. What this means is that the solution allows users to get digital processing and feedback in response to regular handwritten paper-based entries,” she explained.
The ultimate advantage of these digital records is that they can be shared with banks supporting the self-help group (SHG), as Ms Ratan added, “Each self-help group runs its own little banking system. We realized that there were lots of gaps in the quality of financial data, and we wanted to help meet this need. Usually, the paper records are sent to town and then someone transcribes them into digital records for processing. Printouts of updates are then sent back to be used at the next meeting. The logistics of getting the data transcribed were heavy, and the reconciliation of errors was difficult, since the people who entered the first set and those who were transcribing it were different.”