We don’t become better writers by building a better word processing software

by | Oct 25, 2022 | ICT4D |


We don’t become better writers by building a better word processing software. A notebook and a pen are all you need. Plus time to write. Ideally daily. Writing digitally makes sharing your writing easier, but doesn’t mean that you’ll write at all. To write, we need to know how to create letters, how to spell, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and so on. And perhaps how to type. If we want to learn how to write or become a better writer, we don’t focus on building a better word processor.

Seems like common sense. Silly almost. And yet…

It’s relatively easy to create a tool to digitally collect data about an issue you’d like to track. If you create your tool in excel or one of the countless form builder tools (MS Forms, surveymonkey, Kobo, ODK, google forms, etc.), it can improve the speed of analysis. And if you, or someone you know, has some skills in a business intelligence software (PowerBI, Tableau, Qlik, Google Data Studio, etc.) you can easily visualise the results. And the beauty of doing it digitally is that when the data is updated, all the analysis and visualisation is also updated. You can see results in real time.

This is the narrative for many digital projects – small scale to large scale. However, the key assumption made is that the data will be collected. And updated. Oh and that the lovely visualisations will be used for decision making and change.

Too often what we see is those collecting the data either 1. do not understand how the data they collect is used (they are only told to collect data). 2. The data is not used or 3. The process is viewed as extractive and for compliance, not for decision making. And therefore, the tool is used for a few times and then fades away. Until someone else tries again. And tries to make a better tool.

Just like we don’t become better writers by building a new or better word processor, we don’t become better data users by focusing on the technology. Improving data use is mostly about organisational culture, communication, and the basics of responsible data use. The technology used is secondary.

Photo by Kenny Eliason

1 Comment

  1. Toeby2022@outlook.com

    Morning old friend
    Just woke up in my car in Montreal
    Waiting for 24hr pawn shop to open who’s hrs are 7am-9pm ?!?!?
    All good. Slept great, used heat from manifold to warmup some Freedom fries gifted to me by Wally (homeless)
    Long story
    Don’t forget to share, forget the like and follow part
    Oh, and you have new PM, congrats


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