Years ago, we heard the mantra that paper was going to go away and we were entering the age of the paperless society.
But this vision has not come fully to fruition.
Public CIO Magazine, August/September 2008, reports that “everyone figured the electronic processes were going to wipe out paper, but that never happened. One possible reason is that printers kept getting faster and cheaper.” (Ralph Gammon, editor and publisher of the Document Imaging Report).
Paper is plentiful in the public sector as well.
Despite the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, “which requires the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to report to congress on the paperwork burden imposed on the public, the feds are allowing the overall burden to grow.”
“The OMB’s latest report, Information Collection Budget, FY 2007, reports the burden increased from 8.24 billion hours in fiscal ’05 to 9.92 billion hours in ’06, a rise of more than 8 percent.” This amounts to an average of 39 hours in 2006 for the average adult in the U.S. to complete government paperwork.
Why is the government not cutting back on paper in lieu of digital solutions when communicating with the public?
“We realize that not everyone has access to a computer and not everyone is technology savvy. So we end up using paper as the lowest common denominator to communicate with a lot of external people.”
Over time, as technology continues to permeate our society, the necessity for paper solutions for the masses will decrease.
Even now with federal tax submissions (which account for roughly 78% of the total paperwork burden on the public), electronic submissions are available and being used by more and more taxpayers:
“Electronic Tax Filing begain in 1986, with the transmission of 25,000 refund-only individual income tax returns, [and]…as of October 19, 2004, more than 63 million individual returns had been filed electronically - 42 million from tax professionals!” (http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=120353,00.html)
In enterprise planning for electronic document solutions for our organizations, we need to work towards ever more sophisticated solutions for the creation, storage, handling, search and retrieval, retention, and disposition, collaboration, and security of information. These solutions should provide for a feature rich electronic document environment including: document management, version control and workflow, record management, imaging and optical character recognition, and overall content management.
Through implementation of electronic document management solutions, we can continue move our enterprises toward enhanced worker productivity, reduced burden on our customers/partners/stakeholders, cost savings, better access to information and hence better decision making capability, and compliance with mandates such as the Paperwork Reduction Act, Government Paperwork Elimination Act, Federal Records Act, and Freedom of Information Act.