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Going Paperless in Government 2023: Tips and Strategies For Local Governments

By Marisa Pangaro

In the modern age, technology offers a solution for everything. From grocery delivery to carshares to same day package delivery, constituents are inundated with convenience and digital solutions for their day to day lives. Why should local governance be any different? 

Shedding reliance on traditional paper-based processes has become paramount for local governments in this digital era. This shift into a modern, paperless world involves governments at every level digitizing documents, embracing cloud-based solutions, and promoting digital communication. Not only does going paperless streamline operations and reduce costs within local government departments, but it also aligns with broader environmental initiatives, making it an essential agenda for responsible local governance.

The struggles local government officials face with old, outdated paper-based workflows cannot be underestimated. These paper-based workflows are much more difficult to organize and keep track of, meaning document requests from citizens take longer and government workflows run at much slower speeds.

After going digital with government operations, your municipal workers will no longer face burdensome tasks of sorting through endless paper files, as the process of tracking data, and providing documentation to constituents in a timely manner will be streamlined.

Keep reading this guide to learn the benefits of a paperless government and identify key ways to go paperless in your municipality.

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What Is A Paperless Government? 

As the term implies, a paperless government is a government body that fully relies on digital technology for record keeping, data storage, inspection workflows, licensing/permitting, and government communications all through the use of the government cloud. The government cloud refers to a specialized digital environment designed to cater to the unique needs and requirements of government storage demands. The cloud is a secure and compliant platform for storing, managing, and processing sensitive government data and applications. 

The architecture of a government cloud is built to have enhanced security features, data encryption, access controls, and continuous monitoring to safeguard critical government information. By utilizing a government cloud, agencies can leverage the benefits of cloud computing while maintaining a high level of security and compliance, ultimately improving efficiency, collaboration, and the delivery of public services.

Learn more about Government Cloud Data Storage and How to Use the Government Cloud

Why Local Governments Should Go Digital and Embrace Paperless Workflows

Embracing paperless workflows streamlines operations for a local government and has a variety of benefits for a municipality. Here are a few key reasons governments should go digital:

  • Task Automation 

Task automation is key to running a more efficient government and ensuring municipal workers have the time to focus on their more pressing and complex tasks. Automating tedious and repetitive tasks in government significantly saves time and resources for government departments by reducing the man hours needed to operate departments smoothly. Follow our guide to The Best Automated Workflows for Government to learn exactly how you can prioritize task automation and leave the simple tasks to Government AI Programs

Check out GovPilot’s Workflow Automation Software For Governments.  

  • Employee Time Savings 

Too many hours are spent by municipal workers sifting through seemingly endless piles of paperwork and repetitively entering information into unreliable, or unsecure manual storage systems. By embracing paper-based workflows and automation, government employees gain their time back, allowing them to dedicate it to improving constituent services and completing other important government work. 

  • Safer More Manageable Data Storage 

How your local government stores data is crucial to the overall wellbeing of the municipality. Government data is invaluable and often holds sensitive information about government workings and constituents. When localities' networks are hacked, or they lose their records to disaster such as a fire, the data is often lost forever and cannot be recovered, leading to various set-backs and failures on behalf of the government. 

Create a Government Continuity Plan for the case of emergencies so your government employees know how to handle a disaster that may destroy data. 

Utilizing government software such as the solutions GovPilot offers, alongside government cloud storage will not only keep your data safe and secure, but will also help your municipality share documents and information interdepartmentally within seconds for improved government communications. Utilize cloud-based storage and collaboration platforms to store and share documents securely, enabling remote access and reducing the need for physical copies.

Keep reading to learn everything about How Local Governments Can & Should Use the Cloud and to learn about Azure for Government

  • On Demand Service To Constituents 

Local governments have the ability to offer many services and permissions to citizens in a fully online capacity with government management software that digitizes all vital government processes. Citizens will be able to make records requests and fill out applications online with the click of a button without ever needing to travel to city hall. Online communications are also enabled with government software solutions that make it easier for government officials to learn exactly what services constituents would like to see improved. 

Here's everything you need to know about Understanding Government Software for Municipalities & Counties

  • Cyber Security 

Cybersecurity is an important aspect of government work due to how much critical information is available online via your government networks. Embracing government management software will increase cybersecurity in your local government by encrypting, and backing up your government data to ensure it cannot be lost or stolen even if your government networks are hacked. It is the responsibility of the local government to guard against cyber threats and protect citizen and government data or information. 

GovTip: Consider training municipal employees on government cybersecurity best practices to ensure government workers don’t accidentally engage with cyber threats. 

  • Interdepartement Success

Eliminating paper workflows and embracing digital technology solutions will allow your government employees to automatically share and upload any document or ongoing project onto the cloud to increase and simplify interdepartmental communication. Once in the cloud, every government department can access the file from anywhere, 24/7.  

How Going Paperless Benefits Constituents 

There are many benefits and improvements your local government will experience after your local cal government goes paperless. Here are some of the benefits: 

  • Easy Online Permitting 

Making Permits and licenses available for issuing and/or renewal online makes the application process more efficient and convenient for citizens. Government workers no longer have to manually review applications themselves with the help of online permitting software that automatically sorts and processes online applications in moments. Online permitting solutions from GovPilot also automatically update the issuing government department and applicant with notifications throughout the approval process. 

Here are a few popular permits/licenses to automate now: 

Become an expert on How Permitting Software Works with our guide. 

  • Online Payment Processes

Making online credit and debit card processing possible on your government website makes for more convenience for your citizens and automates payment processing workflows that previously needed to be performed by humans and took more time. Secure payments can be processed online with integrations from GovPilot so citizens can pay fees and fines online. 

Check out the Best Government Payment Processing Services

  • Improved Communication With Government Officials 

Government officials in the past have been historically hard for constituents to get a hold of, let alone to have one on one interactions with. However, with an improved government communication strategy, local government officials can have more modern and established lines of communications with constituents. Utilize social media outreach to engage with citizens who all utilize it anyway, and to gauge public opinion in the most convenient way possible. 

Report-A-Concern software is also available from GovPilot that streamlines government/citizen communications by making it possible for citizens to voice concerns about their community in real time, to automatically be sent to the correct government department to be addressed. 

Check out Report-A-Concern Citizen Reporting Software and our mobile concern reporting app, GovAlert

  • Convenience

Constituents are used to the convenience of DoorDash and Uber, that streamlines and digitizes every day processes for community-members. Your local government can match that convenience by undergoing a digital transformation and moving government processes online for municipal workers and citizens. 

10 Key Ways For Governments To Go Paperless 

Here are the key ways your municipality can get started on the road to a completely paperless government: 

1. Digitizing Documents and Records

Scan and convert paper documents into digital formats and implement document management systems to organize, store, and retrieve them quickly and efficiently. Utilize the government cloud to ensure all documents are available to any government employee that needs them at any time. Having vital documents stored and uploaded in a digital capacity also streamlines the Clerks process of getting them to citizens upon request. 

Learn about Open Records Request Software here. 

2. Electronic Approvals

Implement digital approval workflows for permits and other records requests to streamline processes for your Clerk's Department and reduce the need for printed documents and paper waste. Electronic approvals save thousands of hours for government employees and constituents alike. 

3. Online Forms and Applications

Develop online platforms with GovPilot for citizens and businesses to submit forms and applications digitally, reducing paperwork and manual data entry for everyone involved. 

Here are a few common applications to digitize within your government: 

4. Sustainable Municipal Environment 

Being more green and sustainable in your local government is not something that should be taken lightly. Reducing the carbon footprint of your community begins in your local government offices, where the example can be set for the rest of the community. Going green isn’t hard; start by reducing paper waste in the workplace and findingmore green solutions over time.

Check out GovPilot’s Sustainability Guide For Local Governments. 

5. Electronic Communication

Promote email communication and other electronic means for interdepartmental and external communications to minimize paper usage and keep an automatic record of all interactions between staff and constituents alike. This email trail is better for tracking government productivity and transparency than antiquated manual workflows ever could. Create a strong government communications strategy and go from there. 

6. Digital Payments and Invoicing

Encourage digital payments and invoices for government services, fees, and procurement processes to reduce the need for paper checks and invoices. This may take some getting used to for constituents who may not realize the full potential of online payment portals just yet, however the benefits of the software are plentiful and speak for themselves. Encourage constituents to pay online where you can and make this a normal practice in your community. 

7. Educating and Training Employees

Provide training and educational programs to government employees to enhance their digital skills and promote the use of digital tools and processes which will make their lives easier, and help them to work faster and smarter with new technology. Not everyone who works in your local government will be a technology whiz, and some employees will require training and onboarding to work with the new technology. Train Government Workers on Onboarding New Software Solutions into their local government. 

8. Remote Work and Telecommuting

Encourage telecommuting and remote work arrangements in your municipality to minimize the need for physical paperwork and promote digital collaboration and communication between employees.

The benefits of hybrid and remote work environments have been proven, and show that allowing government workers to work online creates more efficient and well-rounded work (that can be completed from anywhere). Workers will no longer need to lose pay or cash in a sick day, when they are able to stay home from work if they are sick, while still contributing to the team from a distance and keeping their coworkers safe. 

Learn more and read our guide on Hybrid Government Work Culture: the Future of Government Employment

9. Legislation and Policies

Enact legislation and policies that mandate or incentivize government departments to work and support the community digitally online, without the need to do so much manual work. Encourage private sector businesses to participate in fully paperless workflows to improve the local environment and work culture while operating with convenient tech solutions online. 

Learn about GovTech’s Role In Governance here.  

10. Digitize Inspection Workflows

Manual inspections are a thing of the past, as they take too much time to complete, are often more difficult to schedule, and manually taken paper-based notes and documentation may be lost or inaccurate. However, GovInspect,  GovPilot’s new mobile application, streamlines inspection workflows when paired with GovPilot's platform, and enables on-site inspections and real-time, cloud-based record keeping directly from mobile devices including smartphones and tablets to avoid any miscommunication.

Utilize GovInspect for all building and construction related inspections - CCO Rental/Sale Inspections, and Code Enforcement Inspections, as well as the issuance of Violation Citations, and Work Orders.

Go Paperless In Your Local Government

Embrace digital workflows and government automation today to save time and resources in your local government. Without digitizing into a paperless government, your government data is at risk, constituents face inconveniences such as long wait times for record requests, and clerks have to spend hours organizing paperwork.

Book a consultation with GovPilot to see what Government Management Software could do for your municipality by eliminating outdated paper-based workflows and implementing new technology solutions and digital workflows to save time and money. 

Paperless Workflows in Government FAQs

  • Why Should Governments Embrace Paperless Workflows?

Governments should enthusiastically adopt paperless workflows due to the various advantages they offer such as cost savings, resulting from the reduction in expenditures related to paper, printing, and storage facilities. Also paperless workflows enhance operational efficiency and productivity by streamlining document management processes within your government so digital documents can be swiftly accessed, edited, and shared, fostering collaboration and expediting decision-making.

  • What Are Common Challenges Localities Face With Manual Paper-Based Workflows? 

Manual paper-based workflows present numerous challenges for localities because these workflows are inherently slow and inefficient. Retrieving, processing, and storing physical documents can consume significant time, hindering timely decision-making by officials and responsiveness to constituents in a timely manner.

Additionally, paper-based systems are prone to errors, as manual data entry can lead to inaccuracies and misplaced information, potentially resulting in misunderstandings or miscalculations within your clerks department, adding to government bureaucracy.

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