UK Debate Heats Up Over Government Switch to Paperless

The report Smarter, Better, Faster, Stronger issued by the Policy Exchange Organization (PEO) in the UK claims that by eliminating paper for interactions within and between departments and digitizing its activities and services, government could save £70 billion by 2020.

That projection triggered a response from Two Sides, a UK industry lobbying group. It sent its feedback to the authors of Smarter, Better, Faster, Stronger and Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office. In its response, Two Sides admitted that we live in a digital world, but emphasized that people should be cautious in accepting the Government going paperless.

A key reason, Two Sides offered, was the “digital disenfranchisement” of many UK households. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2013 data, 7.1 million UK adults (14%) have never used the Internet and 17% of UK households have no Internet access.

Moreover, it stressed consumer choice and the important role of the print and paper industry to the economy. Statistics were cited from a 2011 survey by international market research firm IPSOS. That survey found 80% of UK consumers prefer reading from paper than a screen and 58% consumers would rather keep important documents as paper.

Two Sides pointed out that 26% UK consumers print up to 20% of significant documents at home, challenging the report’s use of the term paperless.

Two Sides Director Martyn Eustace said: “There’s an automatic assumption that digital is better. In many situations it can be. It’s incredible what we can do these days with digital information. But you have to recognize that paper-based media and printing is still an absolute necessity for a whole raft of people, and also the medium of choice for many others.”

Eustace added, “Quite clearly any report that says there could be potential savings of £70 billion is going to be leapt on by government as incredibly attractive. We just hope people take our response into account.”

The Two Sides response is available at:

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