With Pen and Paper Emails, HP Labs Aims to Bridge India’s Digital Divide

Indian cell phone

HP Labs India will soon release an application for mobile phones that will allow people to simply write a message on paper, take a picture of the message, and send that text as an email to an addressee at the price of $0.22 per email. The technology will connect millions of villagers–who presently have no access to computers or the Internet–to India’s booming digital landscape.

The software also makes it possible for Indian residents to send emails in a variety of local dialects, a feature that is currently not available, even on many computer and email applications. One concern, though, is that a majority of mobile phones in India do not have the capacity to run an application like the one HP Labs is developing. Jacob Victor, former Joint Director of e-governance, Information Technology and Communications for the state of Andhra Pradesh, said, “Around 80 percent of the population do not have such advanced handsets. However, extra memory is slowly increasing as new models enter the market.”

India has over 600 million mobile phone subscribers, and an application that allows some of those who live on less than $2 per day to access the global digital economy is definitely something to watch out for.

[Image by Flickr user Dipanker Dutta]JN