In December, 2008, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, launched Renew Virginia, a year-long series of legislative and administrative actions promoting renewable energy, creating green jobs, and encouraging preservation of the environment. A noble goal, indeed, and as many such initiatives are, typically more challenging to realize than decree. Environment preservation is on everyone’s mind today, and rightfully so. As we consider that the world is now home to over 6 Billion people, we must all be mindful of shared resources.
One of the key environmental areas that governmental agencies, in particular, can focus on is the reduction of paper in their processes. Over the past 10 years, many of these organizations have embraced the idea of moving away from paper, and have implemented electronic document management systems, which allow paper to be stored in electronic format for ease of retrieval and sharing without the creation of additional paper. Many have even taken the additional step of ‘digitizing’ or converting their older, historical paper and microfilm records to digital formats, and have been able to ‘recycle’ the vastly expensive space they were previously using to store these documents.
One of the most overlooked areas of significant improvement, however, is the point at which citizens actually interact or interface with these agencies. Currently, many of the Commonwealth’s municipalities have gaggles of necessary forms posted on their respective websites for citizens to find, print and complete on their own with no employee interaction. This is a step in the right direction, but somewhat limited in its efficiency and ‘green’ power. For instance, if I want to have a garage sale in my hometown of Chesapeake, VA, I can go to the city website, pull up the permit form, fill in the required fields (all good so far…) but THEN, I have to print the form (waste of paper and ink), write a check (waste of expensive paper and ink), and either drive to the Commissioner of Revenue’s office (waste of gas and time) or mail it to the COR’s office (waste of envelope, stamp and post office gas and time). Once the Commissioner’s office receives my permit request and check, the paper form (which started out as an electronic document) now has to be digitized and entered into their document management system for approval and archiving. The check also has to be deposited (and someone must verify that it clears…) The inefficiencies are monumental!
Doesn’t it make much more sense to eliminate the waste that occurs between the original electronic form on the website and the completed electronic form and deposit in the Commissioner’s system? A cursory review of the City of Chesapeake’s online forms page shows over 140 forms! How much paper, gasoline and manpower could be saved by eliminating the ‘waste’ in this process? Multiplied by the number of municipalities across the Commonwealth? Or the country?
So, congratulations to many of the Virginia Governmental agencies that have adopted electronic content management systems… you are halfway there. You’ve ‘greened’ the back-end of your process. Let’s begin to focus on the front-end going forward, and a “Renewed Virginia” reality can be much closer for all of us.