The word paperless implies minimal or low usage of physical paper. All the paper files will be electronically converted into digital documents/electronic files. Moving from paper documents to digital documents is a critical step in achieving digitisation. It increases the efficiency, productivity, and internal and external communications within the company. Many companies and organisations have made efforts to reduce paper usage in their businesses. But they are unable to achieve the full-scale tilt towards digitisation. Going paperless minimises the costs involved with the purchase of paper, storage, printing. Also, it lowers the subsidiary charges such as printer maintenance, human cost, and others. Although going paperless has a fair share of advantages, on the other side of the coin, it does have some disadvantages. The business remains vulnerable to data breach DDoS attacks in the absence of proper implementation of security measures,
Going Paperless – Historical perspective
Frederick Wilfrid Lancaster coined the term paperless in 1978. The introduction of computers into the workforce in the 1930s ushered in a new era in computer science and technology. The migration of personal computers into the workforce changed the scenario of businesses. They started to allocate separate funds for procuring the systems or computers for increased productivity. Businesses leveraged computers for word processing and accounting. Then there came the desktop computers to print documents. The Internet became a functional tool at the workplace by the end of the 1990s.
Adobe Acrobat in 1993 introduced a Universal Portable document format dubbed as PDF. It facilitated easy sharing and viewing of the software regardless of the operating system or software. In the end of the 20th century, there came servers for storing files as digital documents in large metal cabinets. In 2006, Google launched the internet-based programs the Google docs and Google sheets. It allowed the users to create, share and update the documents online. IBM and Apple launched their cloud services in 2011. The year 2014 paved the way for cloud security, offering superior protection to the users.
Paperless in times of Covid-19 pandemic
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the only reason for going paperless was to save the environment. Now the pandemic has led to renewed demand for going paperless. The contamination risk of Covid-19 increases as paperwork changes hands. Many companies are now turning towards digitisation as a means to maintain minimal contact during daily operations. Many countries across the world are quick enough to deploy tracking and tracing apps and apps for working from home. In the wake of the current health emergency, governments across the world have put in place dedicated information portals, self-diagnosis apps, and more. There were also e-services concerned with the supply of medical goods and e-permits for curfews.
Advantages with going paperless
There are many benefits with going paperless from saving the environment to boosting security. A sneak peak into the benefits of paperless ecosystem offers helps explore the tremendous potential of digitisation.
You can save a lot of time that is spent searching for paper documents. With a digital document system, employees can locate the required document with a click of a button.
As all the data is stored electronically, there is no need for paper. With a decrease in demand for paper, less trees are being cut down leading to environment protection.
Promotes transparency and Accountability
The digitisation brings an end to corruption in government and other organisations. The digital documentation of papers and automated workflows ensures transparency and accountability.
The files and folders having paperwork occupies a lot of office space. They get accumulated overtime and are difficult to organise and sort out. If it is a financial industry, then the situation is even worse as it involves loads of paperwork. Digitisation allows storage of all the documents in the serves present in the office or in the cloud. Thereby it saves a lot of space in the process.
Prevents Data theft
Physical documents are vulnerable to theft; they can be accessed by any unauthorised individuals. This is not possible with digitisation as it involves implementation of strict security protocols. The system administrators can assign granular-access rights which assigns permission at document level.
With an increase in infrastructure and networks, it becomes increasingly difficult to manually check and manage security and compliance. Manual methods can result in a delay in threat detection, leaving the businesses vulnerable to attacks. Automated security helps streamline many of the daily operations. It integrates security into the processes and applications right from the start. Also, it helps in the implementation of rapid remedial measures to the system and ensures faster response to incidents.
Going Paperless: Global perspective
Paperless is much-needed for transparent, corrupt-free governance. Many governments across the globe have opted the route for enhanced transparency, efficiency, and accountability. Estonia, a small Baltic country in Northern Europe, became the first country in the world with a paperless government in 2018. The country has been employing blockchain technology since 2012 in national health, judicial, security, and legislative systems. The world’s most cashless countries include Belgium, France, and Canada.
According to the latest UN’s e-government survey 2020, Denmark, the Republic of Korea, and Estonia are at the forefront among the 193 member nations. It is followed by Finland, Australia, Sweden, U.K, New Zealand, United States, and the Netherlands completing the top 10. The 2020 data indicate that all the countries have back-end systems and national portals that automate core administrative tasks and public services availability. The top three most commonly used online transactional services include applying for a birth certificate, building permit, and business license. There was a steep increase in the number of countries offering updates through mobile apps/SMS in the health and education sectors. It can be attributed to the increased access to broadband services.
The Indian Scenario
India is at the forefront when it comes to adopting digitisation. The country has undergone a digital revolution allowing users to view the status of an application online, payment of taxes, and receipt of welfare funds. Let’s check out some of the steps adopted by the government of India towards the path of digitisation.
- For the first time since independence, a completely paperless union budget was presented on 1 February 2021. In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, budget papers are not printed, and soft copies of the same were made available to all parliament members.
- The Government of India launched the Digital India program in 2015. Under the project, 2,50,000 gram panchayats are connected by a high-speed optical fiber network.
- Aadhaar is a major boost to e-governance in India by offering a digital identity to the entire population. With Aadhar, getting a new mobile SIM or opening a new bank account is hassle-free.
- In times of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Arogya Setu app turned out to be a savior by sending constant alerts regarding the Covid-19. The app also provided valuable information indicating the Covid-19 hotspots, probable symptoms for Covid-19, health care centers information, and more.
- Through the Jan-Dhan accounts, the government of India transferred crores of rupees related to various government schemes directly to the accounts of beneficiaries.
Going paperless offers innumerable benefits to the individuals as well as organisations. Besides environmental protection, a paperless ecosystem ensures data security, saves time and space, ensures workflow automation. It puts an end to corruption in government and accounts for transparency and accountability. Overall, the evolution from paper-based systems to digitisation (paperless) is significantly efficient.