We were promised a paperless world (and jet packs), yet we all still deal with tons and tons of paper. Metric tons. Metric sh*t-tons of paper. Nowhere is this more obvious than when dealing with the government…particularly your friendly, local DMV.

Yesterday, I sold my car. It was a sad day for me, complicated by several weeks of paperwork sleuthing. Pennsylvania has an electronic title program, which sounds like a wonderful digital government initiative, but in practice, it fails to reduce paperwork. As a matter of fact, it not only fails to reduce paperwork, it adds overhead and paperwork!

Rather than allowing me to transfer my digital title to the new owner electronically, I had to submit a request via paper form (downloaded from the DMV website) to PennDot, who then printed and mailed a paper copy of the tile to me. The buyer and I then had to drive to a notary to fill out yet more paperwork that would be submitted to the state via snail-mail, along with the newly signed paper title, so that a new electronic title could be created in the name of the buyer.

Imagine if the state had a electronic ID, much like Estonia (yes, Estonia)…and I could have simply digitally signed over the title of my vehicle to the buyer using both of our authenticated digital identifications in a completely paperless and highly secure transaction. Now imagine applying this idea to the 23,000+ paper forms required to access services across the 68 federal agencies!!

The time and cost savings would be astronomical, efficiently using tax payer resources while reducing security and fraud risks.

When I encounter wasteful processes when accessing services with my government, I get frustrated. What else could we be doing with this time and money?! These are services that we all pay for, whether we use them or not, and I like to imagine what great services our government would be able to offer if the every day access to services were managed with the same level of efficiency we expect from interactions with for-profit corporations.

This, to me, is one of the most powerful promises of Digital Government. Less time, energy, and cost wrapped up in paperwork opening the door for better and new services to improve people’s lives and make the world run better.

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