Paper has been around for approximately two thousand years, since it’s invention in China, and it has served as the medium of choice for recording and sharing information ever since.
However, enter the age of information technology and we are now able to capture, process, and store far more information, quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently than we ever could with paper.
Combine that with the environmental impact and the need to conserve, and we have numerous federal laws calling for the reduction or elimination of paper, to the extent practical.
1) The Paperwork Reduction Act (1980) calls for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to regulate collection of information and establish information policies to reduce the paper handled by the government.
2) The Government Paperwork Elimination Act (1998) mandates the use of electronic forms, filings, and signatures for official business with the public.
3) E-Government Act (2002) requires use of the Internet to improve citizen access to information and services.
All three are a recognition of the need to move from costly paper-based processes and the management of maintenance of mountains of paper records to instead leverage information technology to re-engineer and improve the way we perform information management.
It’s funny, but for me it’s almost become a personal crusade to make better use of information technology to perform our mission and business of government more effectively, and I personally keep as little paper records, as possible–instead choosing to manage predominantly online–and it’s great.
Aside from having a cleaner office–no paper files, I enjoy all the benefits of electronic filing, search, and the ability to quickly share files with others in the office without having to rummage through a stack of papers 3 feet deep!
Working in some areas that are still paper intensive for case management and so on, I have taken on the mantra, which I frequency cite of “I hate paper!”
No, I don’t really hate it, but in order to change decades old manual and paper intensive processes, we need to exaggerate a little and tell ourselves and other we hate it, so we can help change the inefficient and costly status quo.
You can only imagine how surprised I was to read in The Atlantic (20 April 2012)–that “Paper: [Is] The Material of the Future.”
Essentially, the article touts the new developments with paper using nanotechnology to make it water-proof (although you can still write on it), magnetic, fluorescent, and even anti-bacterial.
Imagine paper that you can stick to your file cabinet, spill coffee on, light up the room with, and even keep you from getting sick–yes, that’s fairly impressive!
However, while these new features are wonderful indeed and will increase the usability of paper as well as improve records management of them, I do not want to see us get complacent with reducing our use of paper and making better use of technology.
Even with these cool nano-tech improvements to paper coming our way, I am still going to say, “I hate paper!”
(Source Photo: here with attribution to Earthworm)