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Bank Uses Digital Pens to Open Accounts in Rural Ghana

Technology allows banking in areas where there are no bank branches, roads, phones or electricity.

We often hear bankers lament that their account opening process is too slow and paper-based. But imagine the challenge of opening accounts in villages in rural Ghana, where bank branches, as well as telephone service, electricity and paved roads, are scarce and 28% of the population live below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day.

Women’s World Banking Ghana, a microfinance bank, is using digital pen and wireless telecommunication technology to allow bankers to open accounts throughout the country.

Digital pens look like fat ballpoint pens and use imaging technology to capture handwriting. Bank field staff complete account application forms with a digital pen when meeting with rural customers. The paper forms are similar in appearance to the bank’s current account opening forms and are completed as one would normally complete a paper form. The handwriting captured on the form is routed in near-real-time using wireless mobile devices or PCs to a server where it is converted into electronic data in industry standard formats and sent to downstream banking systems. A duplicate, original image of the handwritten document is stored and retrieved electronically as needed. The paper original is available as backup for disaster recovery or technology failures.

"Our institution’s vision is to be the leading provider of world class, sustainable financial services to micro entrepreneurs, particularly women, in the markets we serve," said Okyei Gyeabour, president, Women’s World Banking Ghana, in a statement. “By deploying this innovative field solution, we are able to streamline the account opening process, reducing response time and enhancing customer service while retaining the human touch for sensitive information gathering related to financial transactions.”

By incorporating digital writing technology into the field environment, Women's World Bank of Ghana hopes to reduce costs linked to paper processing while shortening approval processing and response times from weeks to hours.

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