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3 Reasons Why Printing is Still a Killer App for Behavior Change

By Wayan Vota on June 15, 2017

Recently, I watched in amazement as a group of agriculture extension agents wrestled with an inkjet printer in a rural Philippine rice field.

First they ran a power cable from the nearest house out to the demonstration area, then they fiddled with the laptop and the WiFi to connect Android phones to the printer. Finally, they waited patiently as they tried to get the system to work while 40 farmers milled about wondering why it was taking so long.

Why were they going through all this trouble to print out personalized fertilizer recommendations for rice farmers? Because it mattered!

Last chance to join us at ICTforAg to find more agricultural extension agent innovations

Paper Still Has Its Place in Development.

Regardless if the printout is for rice farmers, expectant mothers, or school children, there are still at least three strong reasons why printing is still popular in the age of digital documentation.

1. A Printed Document is Official

Unlike an email or digital image, a printed piece of paper looks more official. It shows the effort taken to create the document, and with an organization’s logo, especially an international donor, the document takes on a gravitas no email can match. Also, in many countries, only a printed document can be an official document.

2. A Printed Document is Customized

When the printed document is customized to that person, it takes on significance for the owner that is greater than a generic handout. It is theirs and theirs alone. In countries where people may not have much printed matter at home, or few documents with their name on it, the customized document can become a treasured keepsake, increasing its potential to effect change.

3. Printing a Document is Special

What surprised me most in that rice field was the way the farmers reacted to the wait for their printed recommendation. Where I saw delay, they saw ritual and significance. Even for farmers who owned books, surfed Facebook, and watched US movies, a simple printout impressed them.

The very act of printing in their field conveyed a special importance to the recommendation. They recognized the effort taken to produce their personalized document and therefore gave it much greater weight in their farming decision than similar efforts where printed recommendations were handed out without delay.

In the age of digital development, don’t forget the psychological benefit from slowing down and making something special to drive faster and deeper behavior change.

Filed Under: Agriculture
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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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7 Comments to “3 Reasons Why Printing is Still a Killer App for Behavior Change”

  1. Carl Wahl says:

    Hi Wayon –

    I really appreciate these recent articles … though it’s a bit of a Luddite epiphany, I think these insights (along with your recent article on offline capacity) are fantastic and speak to the yawning gulfs between the world of apps / updates / big data-will-save-us and, well, everywhere else where that is not the case.

    Too bad we couldn’t figure out really low cost, low-energy printers to link to a machine and print out things like fertilizer requirements, simple tech briefs, etc. on the fly.

    Shoot, my dongle hung up again. Hope this posts.

    Best,
    Carl

    • Wayan Vota says:

      You ask and technology delivers! A quick scan finds HP and Cannon with battery powered portable printers.

      The only catch is that they are $150-200 plus $100 for the battery, which makes them at least $100 more than a basic inkjet. They are also probably only normally available in the US/Europe so a program would need to have international connections to import them.

    • +1

      ICTWorks are spreading a lot of valuable insights beyond all the tech-hype. Thanks!!

      I have the same experience seeing printers in use. It’s sad that toner is often expensive or completely unavailable on local markets though, and a good way to help for equipment donors is to:

      1) Consider price of toner/ink for models
      2) Ship batches of similar models and encourage coops for purchasing new toners/ink
      3) Distribute instructions and kits for refilling if they exist

      Best,
      Ben

  2. isabelle says:

    Great little blog and so important to remember . Btw, it would be great to have social sharing buttons at the end of blogs to make it easier to share!

    • Wayan Vota says:

      Good point on the sharing buttons. I’ve turned them on at the end of the posts. Now no excuse not to share this with your friends 😉

  3. Very good post and especially the support in the need to focus the applications of ICT in agriculture and rural development. I take this opportunity to express my opinion and request your support to better connect our project.

    We are from AgrumSoft, a Peruvian project, and we have an App on Android Tablets that take information from the field to the internal memory with geo-referencing (GPS) of the farmers’ plots.
    In this case, the APP has a great strength and the use of Tablets takes greater force with the training. For example our farmers do not need to print any documents and this seems to them a strength. By the following.

    QR Code label: Each farm generates a QR code for the traceability of the coffee crop and this code for them is “worth” more than a document because they know that it reflects a lot of information of their field (Place, Ecosystem, Varieties, Process, etc). This code is printed as a label for each crop and derived product.

    Mobile App to obtain information: The installed mobile App has 20 questions to mark very simple as images with check list and this information is recorded in the memory of the tablet and upload to the cloud monthly when they approaching the wifi signal on the cities. They can be seen in the central page (web) the result of the data as a profile of your field.

    App must be more than useful: The use of this App is the basis of the Traceability with geo-referencing to obtain the profile of each field of coffee cultivation and connect to another e-commerce platform called AgrumTrade, to reduce middlemen with a greater impact to coffee growers in Peru. Finally, the system generates value added and recognises their utility in a direct way, so that the “certificates” that have quality stamps are stored as they are not useful to have a better price for their coffee.

    Cultural aspect: In Peru, the value of documents has been lost due to corruption or bureaucracy, and now information is relied and based on technology. It is a very curious behaviour trend here in Latin america.

  4. Great point about paper’s role in official business!

    I had the pleasure of helping Sierra Leone’s Health Education Department develop an all-of-the-above approach when it comes to developing a document repository.

    Full story is here: https://healthcommcapacity.org/building-virtual-document-repository-health-educators-sierra-leone/

    A chief activity that helped facilitate the digital/paper based based solution was the adoption of a compact and mobile scanner: the Brother ADS1500W Compact Color Desktop Scanner with Duplex and Web Connectivity.

    It’s adoption was acknowledgement that paper is here to stay but that sharing digitally makes sense for broader dissemination when cost is prohibitive.

    ~Jarret Cassaniti