Viewpoints

Paperless government? It’s possible

By Frank Kettenstock

There are certainties in life and many would agree they are “death and taxes.” Those that work in and with local government would also add “paperwork” to that list. However, with the pace of work and life increasing with technology, it was only a matter of time until governments started adopting programs to ease and optimize process management.

Due to security concerns and legacy technology, most government offices are set up to access documents directly from restricted desktops, which although secure, can hamper productivity and ultimately drive up costs. A rapidly growing alternative to the “paper culture” government is to create a mobile interface for elected officials, government employees and constituents to access and use at any time, anywhere.

Paper Has Its Limitations

While the benefits of a paper-driven process were based on tried and true considerations such as security, information verification and traceable document flow, those benefits have proven dated as of late, with security concerns hitting organizations through physical paper trails, for instance. All of these considerations can be addressed with a holistic document management process driven through technology. Beyond scanning, there’s an easy, streamlined and safer approach to taming the paper tiger in our local governments. And it’s beyond the office… it’s mobile and it’s secure.

Why an Automated Process Makes Bottom Line Sense

While automating your data and the way your employees and constituents can access this data seems intuitive, how you get there may be hampering your decision to make the switch. It’s a major reason why government agencies worldwide use PDF as a secure, standard way to share, distribute and archive documents.

PDF files support the entire lifecycle of electronic documents and forms, and PDF software provides an effective framework for managing electronic content throughout the agency, enabling government offices to:

  • Distribute official documents reliably and securely
  • Streamline responses to U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests
  • Simplify electronic submissions
  • Implement easy-to-use but powerful PDF forms
  • Archive content in PDF or PDF/A
  • Efficiently exchange documents with government colleagues

The omnipresence of PDF and free PDF readers makes the transition to online and mobile government processes easier, but reliable document delivery is not the only benefit. Since a PDF file acts as a container for digital services that travels with a document wherever it goes, the PDF standard gives government agencies modern capabilities and benefits, including:

  • Accessibility – PDF is universally accessible by everyone, including people with disabilities such as blindness and motor impairments. This makes compliance with regulations such as Section 508 of the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act easier.
  • Security – PDF provides various levels of security, including password protection, which lets government officials add a password to a PDF document to limit ability to open the file and restrict certain features and rights management services, which provide policy based access controls on protected documents.
  • Streamlined FOIA requests – Additional capabilities decrease the time and effort it takes to respond to citizens’ requests for information, such as FOIA inquiries. PDF archives simplify the process of finding information by letting you use keywords to quickly locate specific records.
  • Easy forms conversion – All existing government forms can be converted to PDF files, making them secure, interactive, and accessible by anyone with an Internet connection and a PDF Reader. Doing so ensures that everyone receives the same forms whether they use online, mobile or print versions.
  • Searchable content – Government agencies need to record and archive just about everything they do. PDF and PDF/A are both widely used standard formats for archiving information supported by most of today’s PDF readers.

Government employees can and do make use of PDF across all areas of civil service, including the public library, police department, public works, city hall, city home campus, the court system, and, of course, the Office of Records, typically the branch of government most responsible for managing and archiving official documents.

Among their many tasks, government employees use PDF software for different content management tasks such as scanning, archiving via PDF or PDF/A, converting, annotating, editing, collaboration, and protecting PDF documents. In fact, while transforming scanned records into editable and searchable PDF files remains work-intensive, today it is one of the most common workflow processes used by government staff.

Consuming Information in a Collaborative Environment

Government employees will no doubt continue to author documents on a desktop but to create a collaborative environment, these documents need to move to an automated and sometimes mobile interface to allow for others to consume the information. We have moved past the era of printing or emailing documents for review, and even walking around the office with laptops. In today’s landscape, where tablets and phones are the primary sources of consuming information, governments and municipalities need to be front and center in providing their constituents with easily digestible communications platforms. Providing the information in an automated and increasingly mobile interface is a good place to start.

Frank Kettenstock is the Vice President of Marketing at Foxit, a leading software provider of PDF solutions to multiple industries including federal and local government agencies. Frank earned his electrical engineering degree from Brown University and MBA from Boston University. As Vice President of Marketing at Foxit, he is able to distill technical matters into customer benefits. Before joining Foxit, Frank worked in product marketing and management roles with MonoSphere, Concord Communications and Telcordia Technologies.

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

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Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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