Thinking Old School can open up Digital Possibilities

by | Jan 9, 2020 | ICT4D |

“We need a paper trail for this situation.” At one point in the near future, I can imagine my children or my nieces & nephews finding this a strange sentence. We don’t really mean paper, we tend to mean a digital record of some sort.

Some days as I read various stories of data breaches or the extent of surveillance occurring, I wonder if we should go back to paper. I wonder if it would be better if ‘master beneficiary lists’ of humanitarian organisations should be paper while the activity tracking be done digitally. Could the paper master list work across partners? It would need to be hyper-local. And when the project or response finished, there could be a ritualised burning of the paper lists.

I can feel you cringe from afar. And so do I. But would it help with reducing the long tail of data harm by never making the dataset digital? Perhaps. And perhaps not. However, it can be a good thought experiment to work through with your teams.

The other side of this is that it forces us to think about what sensitive data is, options to protect and delete it, but also how to work with organisations how have not yet ‘gone digital’. It can also help us to ask ourselves if one part of our data chain is treated very differently to the other parts does that open up new opportunities.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska

1 Comment

  1. Anna Kondakhchyan

    This resonates, Amos – remember the proverbial financial advice to keep some petty cash as paper notes in your wallet, as it’s psychologically more difficult to part with money when it’s in paper form?


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