Abstract

Tracking attendance is a necessity in a variety of contexts in the developing world, encompassing health programs, schools, government offices, and a litany of other milieux. While electronic attendance tracking systems exist and perform their core function well, they are expensive, monolithic and offer little customizability.

In this paper we describe a fingerprint-based biometric attendance system implemented using off-the-shelf components: a netbook computer, a commodity fingerprint reader, and a low-cost mobile phone. The system identifies visitors based only on their fingerprint, and uploads attendance logs to a central location via SMS. Its functionality goes beyond that of existing market offerings while improving modularity, extensibility, and cost of ownership.

We deployed this system in two health programs – supporting tuberculosis patients in New Delhi and sex workers in Bangalore – and logged over 550 users and 4,500 visits over the course of several months. Our experience suggests that the system is usable in real-world contexts, though incentives are needed to sustain usage over time. We reflect on the sociocultural factors surrounding adoption and describe the potential to impact health outcomes in the future.