‘Paperless government’ good practice but...

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President William Ruto is rallying his government to actualise the "paperless office" concept. Going paperless implies that all or most government communication and business will be conducted using digital tools.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto is rallying his government to actualise the "paperless office" concept. Going paperless implies that all or most government communication and business will be conducted using digital tools.

The government has already laid a foundation by establishing the e-citizen platform, which allows citizens to access government services, pay bills and apply for various licences and permits online.

A few countries around the world have made significant progress towards a paperless society. However, it’s important to note that “paperless” doesn’t mean no paper at all but rather a significant reduction in paper usage.

Digital signature system

Denmark has implemented a digital signature system for all government documents, significantly reducing the need for paper. Similarly, Estonia has a fully digital government, with 99 per cent of public services available online, making it one of the most advanced digital societies in the world. Dubai is known for its efforts to migrate from paper to digital, while the USA has ambitious goals to cut paper usage in its transactions.

Going paperless is good for the environment. It has been estimated that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper each year, which equates to a lot of trees being cut down. There are many benefits to going paperless, such as reducing your carbon footprint, saving money on paper and printer ink, and decluttering workspaces.

In a paperless office, documents can be stored electronically, which makes them easier to access and share. Organisations achieve this in two ways.

First, they digitise existing documents from archives. Second, they commit to using digital tools going forward without printing out each newly generated document or printing a new copy whenever updating a file.

Besides being a good practice, laws and regulations require an organisation to have a retention policy for all its electronic communications. But first, all its officers must conduct government business using official, not personal, emails. Currently, most government officers use personal email accounts, which is a bad practice.

The advantage of official emails is that the government manages the email server. A copy of each email sent or received is retained on the server and can live there for as long as the government's information retention policy requires. 

The policy should also address the destruction of emails after a specified time, usually several years.

Going paperless has its downside. It’s the easiest route to leak a government’s classified information. Cybercriminals can easily break into personal emails, steal sensitive information, and use it as a tool for blackmail or to pose as a government's top officials.

The government must protect its hardware and applications using firewalls, antivirus measures, and encryption technology to keep information secure and confidential. Encrypting data ensures that even if a hacker were to gain access to it, they would be unable to do any damage.

Mr Wambugu is a Certified Cloud and Cyber Security Consultant. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @Samwambugu2

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