Captricity frees government data from paper captivity

Captricity solves the “paper problem,” unlocking digital, machine-readable data from paper.

By GovFresh · January 8, 2013

[caption id=”attachment_15445” align=”alignnone” width=”700”] Captricity co-founder Kuang Chen. (Photo: Captricity)[/caption]

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Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

Captricity solves the “paper problem,” unlocking digital, machine-readable data from paper quickly and accurately (even with handwriting).

What problem does Captricity solve for government?

Many government agencies still rely on paper-based data collection workflows, yet need machine-readable, digital data to function day-to-day and respond to increasing calls for open data and transparency. Getting the information off paper and into electronic systems is a major bottleneck: manual entry is slow, often inaccurate, and keeps government employees from directly serving citizens. Existing software options, meanwhile, are costly, hard-to-use and often not able to read handwriting.

Captricity offers an easy-to-use solution, combining the best of machine learning and human intelligence to capture digital data faster than manual data entry and more accurately than software-alone.

What’s the story behind starting Captricity?

Captricity was born of founder Kuang Chen’s graduate research at health clinics in Uganda. There, the relatively few trained health workers spend a disproportionately large share of their time wrangling paper files. They needed a better way to process large amounts of data collected on paper, like HIV treatment visit records. Chen began working on a new approach that would maintain the benefits of paper (the lights go out regrettably often) but also enable the benefits of electronic systems.

While completing his PhD at UC Berkeley, Chen thus teamed up with co-founder Jeff Lin, and former product manager at Microsoft (and rockstar - literally) to take Kuang’s notion of human-guided machine learning and turn it into a cloud-based service that anyone can use. Finally, as a Code for America Accelerator company, Captricity was introduced to the need that exists in government as well as the opportunity to advance open data initiatives; see our open data portal.

What are its key features?

First, the secret sauce (Captricity’s unique combination of human workers and advanced computer vision and machine learning), generates highly-accurate data far more quickly and at lower cost than manual data entry, but more accurately than computers alone could. This special combination also makes Captricity scale easily to meet your needs: you can upload 100 or 100,000 forms at a time - we just put more processing power behind your work. It also keeps your information private and secure.

Second, Captricity is a cloud-based service, so there are no drawn-out installations or pricy software upgrades (think vs SAP). Set-up is fast and easy, and there are no contracts required, giving you the flexibility to upload however many forms you have, whenever you want. You can even go back and look at the actual handwriting or text that generated the digital data.

Finally, we’ve packaged all the complex technology in a simple, beautiful, easy-to-use interface that you can customize to your needs with no programming at all. If you can draw a box with your mouse, you can use Captricity. We’ve also released a mobile app and a RESTful API so that you can plug our service into a workflow or database/software application with as little hassle as humanly possible.

What are the costs, pricing plans?

Users pay based on the number of pages they process and the amount of information they want to extract from each page. Currently, you pay just $0.20 per page to get your data processed; there are discounts for high volumes and the first 10 pages are free. You can check it try it out, totally for free, right now, at

How can those interested connect with you?


Captricity demo from Captricity on Vimeo.