Central bank and monetary authority of Egypt digitizes 100 million documents using scanners from Alaris with aim of scanning another 500 million documents over the next 5 years
Alaris, a Kodak Alaris business, today announced that Central Bank of Egypt is on its way to attaining its digital transformation aspirations by digitizing 100 million documents using scanners from Alaris, with the aim of scanning another 500 million documents over the next 5 years.
The digitization of documents has resulted in a number of benefits including huge cost savings in terms of storage space, quick and easy document retrieval and completion of certain processes in a few minutes as opposed to weeks.
As an institution that sets the standard for other banks and financial institutions in the country, Central Bank of Egypt decided two years ago to embark on its digital transformation journey. Digitization of documents was given topmost priority in order to meet regulation, security and compliance demands, reduce costs and to enhance productivity and efficiency.
Mr. Kassem Mohamed, Head of Business Technology Development at Central Bank of Egypt says, “In today’s mobile-first era, paper-based processes are no longer viable, and as a forward-thinking organization, we needed to digitally transform our information management strategies to improve operational efficiency and ensure profitable growth.”
“We had over 500 million documents, that were stored in three warehouses, that had to be retained as per regulatory requirements. Not only was there a huge storage cost, but these documents were at risk of damage and loss. There was a lot of sensitive and confidential information within those documents and the paper handling process itself was unsecure, which threw up cyber security challenges. Finally, it was a very difficult and time-consuming process trying to retrieve a particular document. Digitizing these documents and implementing an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system was imperative. Electronic storage is a lot faster, easier, cheaper and more reliable. If you have a warehouse fire, your documents are gone. But if you have files on a server that is backed up, you can’t lose them.”
Mr. Kassem and his team reached out to Microfilm Egypt Co. (MFE), an Alaris partner and a leading IT solutions company specializing in document management, archival and business process management solutions. The project would be completed in 2 phases. The first phase would involve backlog scanning of 100 million documents, followed by another 500 million documents in the next phase as well as implementation of an ECM solution.
Based on the high volume of the scanning job as well as the emphasis on productivity and accuracy, 20 scanners were used in the first phase of the project. An archive writer was used simultaneously to convert the digital images to microfilm to be stored for the long term. The digitized files are stored in an Oracle database. The scanning and capture solution integrates with other business systems and all the data stored is encrypted and digitally signed.
The first phase of the project has been completed with 100 million documents scanned and digitized in a period of 2 years. Speaking about the efficiency of the scanners from Alaris, Ms. Hend Salah, Area Manager, Foreign Relation Department at Microfilm Egypt Co. says, “We chose the scanners from Alaris because it combines simple operation and time-saving features in a remarkably small and powerful form factor. The scanner’s super-sharp image quality makes it easy to capture information accurately and the durability of the scanner is unparalleled in the market.”
“We were using each machine to scan around 15,000 pages per day. Despite running non-stop along with the archive writer for two years, the scanners worked flawlessly, with zero downtime and with a very high scan quality. This is a tremendous achievement, that allowed us to deliver the first phase of the project to Central Bank of Egypt on time.”
The digitization of documents has resulted in huge cost savings in terms of storage space. Document retrieval now takes just a few clicks. Processes that once took weeks are now completed in a few minutes.
Having successfully completed the first phase of the project, Microfilm Egypt Co. will now start work on digitizing 500 million documents over the next 5 years. Considering the mammoth task, the company has recommended that more units of Alaris scanners be commissioned. The next stage will also involve the implementation of an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution including designing workflows and applying business analytics and intelligence to the data. This will undoubtedly enhance efficiency of operations and aid quick e-retrieval of documents, thus saving precious time and energy manually sifting through stacks of papers.
Talking about the success of the project Mr. Kassem concludes, “I commend Alaris and Microfilm Egypt Co. on the fantastic job done so far in helping our Bank realize our digital transformation aspirations. Alaris’ market leading scanning technology combined with the highest quality of consultancy, service and support from Microfilm Egypt Co. deliver outstanding results. We highly recommend that other banks and financial institutions in the country follow our example and utilize their services in order to truly transform their operations. We now look forward embarking on the second part of our digitization journey with the help of Alaris and Microfilm Egypt Co.”
ECB stays put but warns about surge in infections
By Balazs Koranyi and Francesco Canepa
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank warned on Thursday that a new surge in COVID-19 infections poses risks to the euro zone’s recovery and reaffirmed its pledge to keep borrowing costs low to help the economy through the pandemic.
Having extended stimulus well into next year with a massive support package in December, ECB policymakers kept policy unchanged on Thursday, keen to let governments take over the task of keeping the euro zone economy afloat until normal business activity can resume.
But they warned about a new rise in infections and the ensuing restrictions to economic activity, saying they were prepared to provide even more support to the economy if needed.
“The renewed surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) infections and the restrictive and prolonged containment measures imposed in many euro area countries are disrupting economic activity,” ECB President Christine Lagarde said in her opening statement.
Fresh lockdowns, a slow start to vaccinations across the 19 countries that use the euro, and the currency’s strength will increase headwinds for exporters, challenging the ECB’s forecasts of a robust recovery starting in the second quarter.
Lagarde saluted the start of vaccinations as “an important milestone” despite “some difficulty” and said the latest data was still in line with the ECB’s forecasts.
She conceded that the strong euro, which hit a 2-1/2 year high against the dollar earlier this month, was putting a dampener on inflation and reaffirmed that the ECB would continue to monitor the exchange rate.
The euro has dropped 1% on a trade-weighted basis since the start of the year, but is up nearly 7% over the last 12 months. Against the U.S. dollar, that number rises to over 10%.
Opening the door for more stimulus if needed, Lagarde confirmed the ECB would continue buying bonds until “it judges that the coronavirus crisis phase is over”.
Lagarde also kept a closely watched reference to “downside” risks facing the euro zone economy, which has been a reliable indicator that the ECB saw policy easing as more likely than tightening.
But she signalled those risks were less acute, in part thanks to the recent Brexit deal.
“The news about the prospects for the global economy, the agreement on future EU-UK relations and the start of vaccination campaigns is encouraging,” Lagarde said. “But the ongoing pandemic and its implications for economic and financial conditions continue to be sources of downside risk.”
Lagarde conceded that the immediate future was challenging but argued that should not impact the longer term.
“Once the impact of the pandemic fades, a recovery in demand, supported by accommodative fiscal and monetary policies, will put upward pressure on inflation over the medium term,” Lagarde said.
Benign market indicators support Lagarde’s argument. Stocks are rising, interest rates are steady and government borrowing costs are trending lower, despite some political drama in Italy.
There is also around 1 trillion euros of untapped funds in the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) to back up her pledge to keep borrowing costs at record lows.
The ECB has indicated it may not even need it to use it all.
“If favourable financing conditions can be maintained with asset purchase flows that do not exhaust the envelope over the net purchase horizon of the PEPP, the envelope need not be used in full,” Lagarde said.
Recent economic history also favours the ECB. When most of the economy reopened last summer, activity rebounded more quickly than expected, indicating that firms were more resilient than had been feared.
Uncomfortably low inflation is set to remain a thorn in the ECB’s side for years to come, however, even if surging oil demand helps put upward pressure on prices in 2021.
With Thursday’s decision, the ECB’s benchmark deposit rate remained at minus 0.5% while the overall quota for bond purchases under PEPP was maintained at 1.85 trillion euros.
(Editing by Catherine Evans)
Bank of Japan lifts next year’s growth forecast, saves ammunition as virus risks linger
By Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto
TOKYO (Reuters) – The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady on Thursday and upgraded its economic forecast for next fiscal year, but warned of escalating risks to the outlook as new coronavirus emergency measures threatened to derail a fragile recovery.
BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the board also discussed the bank’s review of its policy tools due in March, though dropped few hints on what the outcome could be.
“Our review won’t focus just on addressing the side-effects of our policy. We need to make it more effective and agile,” Kuroda told a news conference.
As widely expected, the BOJ maintained its targets under yield curve control (YCC) at -0.1% for short-term interest rates and around 0% for 10-year bond yields.
In fresh quarterly projections, the BOJ upgraded next fiscal year’s growth forecast to a 3.9% expansion from a 3.6% gain seen three months ago based on hopes the government’s huge spending package will soften the blow from the pandemic.
But it offered a bleaker view on consumption, warning that services spending will remain under “strong downward pressure” due to fresh state of emergency measures taken this month.
“Japan’s economy is picking up as a trend,” the BOJ said in the report, offering a slightly more nuanced view than last month when it said growth was “picking up.”
While Kuroda reiterated the BOJ’s readiness to ramp up stimulus further, he voiced hope robust exports and expected roll-outs of vaccines will brighten prospects for a recovery.
“I don’t think the risk of Japan sliding back into deflation is high,” he said, signalling the BOJ has offered sufficient stimulus for now to ease the blow from COVID-19.
NO EXIT EYED
Many analysts had expected the BOJ to hold fire ahead of a policy review in March, which aims to make its tools sustainable as Japan braces for a prolonged battle with COVID-19.
Sources have told Reuters the BOJ will discuss ways to scale back its massive purchases of exchange-traded funds (ETF) and loosen its grip on YCC to breathe life back into markets numbed by years of heavy-handed intervention.
Kuroda said the BOJ may look at such options at the review, but stressed a decision will depend on the findings of its scrutiny into the effects and costs of YCC.
He also made clear any steps the BOJ would take will not lead to a withdrawal of stimulus.
“It’s too early to exit from our massive monetary easing programme at this point,” Kuroda said. “Western economies have been deploying monetary easing steps for a decade, and none of them are mulling an exit now.”
(Reporting by Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto; additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore & Shri Navaratnam)
World Bank, IMF agree to hold April meetings online due to COVID-19 risks
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have agreed to hold their spring meetings, planned for April 5-11, online instead of in person due to continued concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, they said in joint statement.
The meetings usually bring some 10,000 government officials, journalists, business people and civil society representatives from across the world to a tightly-packed two-block area of Washington that houses their headquarters.
This will be the third of the institutions’ semiannual meetings to be held virtually due to the pandemic.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chris Rees
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