Managing Microfinance with Paper, Pen, and Digital Slate

Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan, Sunandan Chakraborty, Pushkar V. Chitnis, Kentaro Toyama, Keng Siang Ooi, Matthew Phiong, Michael Koenig


India’s extensive Self-Help Group (SHG) microfinance network brings formal savings and credit services to 86 million poor households, yet the inability to maintain high-quality records remains a persistent weakness in SHG functioning. We study this problem and present a financial record management application built on a low-cost digital slate prototype. Our proposed solution directly accepts handwritten input on ordinary paper forms and provides immediate electronic feedback. A field trial with 200 SHG members in rural India shows that the use of the digital slate solution results in shorter data recording time, fewer incorrect entries, and more complete records. The paper-pen-slate solution performs as well as, and is strongly preferred over, a purely electronic alternative. The digital slate solution is able to comfortably move between paper and digital worlds, achieving efficiency and quality gains while catering to the preferences and budgets of low-income, low-literate clients.


information technology and development; user interfaces; microfinance; India

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