Technology in the emerging markets is often beyond the reach of the average citizen. For example, the iPad in India can cost as much as the country's per capita income, although it retails for little more than its U.S. price.
But technology can play a major role in helping to reduce poverty. Statistics defy belief. Six million children die of hunger every year - 17,000 a day - a child every five seconds although the planet has food to feed us all.[i]
Combining affordable technology with microfinance is one response.
The world's largest microfinance initiative is India's Self-Help Group (SHG)-Bank linkage program. An SHG is a savings and credit group of 10-20 low-income women meeting weekly or monthly to pool small savings together.
The SHG-Bank linkage program is a centerpiece of the Indian government's strategy for rural financial inclusion and brings formal savings and credit services to 86 million poor households. But the inability to maintain high-quality records is a major weakness.
To fix this SHG developed a financial record management application built on a low-cost digital slate prototype. The solution accepts handwritten input on ordinary paper forms and provides immediate electronic feedback.
The slate combines a digitizing pad with a 3.5-inch touch screen display and runs on Windows CE. The back of the device's pen, fitted with the pen cap, serves as a stylus for touch screen input. With mass manufacture, the device is expected to cost just $100.
A .NET Compact Framework record management software application runs on the prototype. Navigation through the screens of the application is done using the stylus on the touch screen. A touch screen only version of the slate was also developed.
Field testing these devices showed dramatic gains in data quality. These improvements could help millions steadily improve their usage of quality financial services.
For more details on this study please read:
"Managing Microfinance with Paper, Pen and Digital Slate" by Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan, Sunandan Chakraborty, Pushkar V. Chitnis1, Kentaro Toyama, Keng Siang Ooi, Matthew Phiong, Mike Koenig, can be found at:
For details on India's Self Help Group please read:
"The Power of Transformation; India's Self Help Groups" by Major Prema Wilfred can be found at: