There is a substantial cost to governments all levels to purchase, print, disseminate and store paper. In addition to the environmental costs, by choosing to eliminate paper in government operations, governments save purcahse costs of paper, ink, printers, files folders/file cabinets, postage to mail the paper documents created and personnel costs associated with handling all of the paper documents.
This chapter on paperless governments, appearing in a forthcoming book from the American Bar Association on the Greening of Government (eds. Hirokowa and Salkin), points to case studies in states and local governments across the country where governments are not only saving money (after an initial technology investment) but where paperless operations enhance transparency and access to government records by members of the public.
Most governments now allow for electronic signatures on documents and for electronic notarization, making the potential for increased use of paperless operations greater for just about any type of government document or record. The Chaper discusses a number of legislative and executive initiatives in support of this type of government reform.
Many States are re-examining the way local governments are structured in order to enhance efficiency and effectiveness and better confront the challenges of fiscal stress. For example, the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform was created for this purpose. The Commission’s report on Streamlining Local Government identified the complexity and number of local governments as a concern becuase it creates financial stress and blocks the state and local government’s ability to provide core government services. The Commission has sought to make local governments simpler, more transparent, and flexible enough to deal with changing communities. Furthermore, the Commission seeks to reduce the amount of local governments and find a way for them to function at a highly efficient level.
To accomplish these goals the Commission recommends that Indiana counties create an accountable local government with fewer officials and from that provide more coordinated services to its residents. It is recommended that townships shift their local responsibilities to the county level. Schools and library districts should be large enough to provide a great education at lower costs. Cities and towns should increase accountability and dispense with the added costs of separate elections. Further, all local governments should seek to consolidate services. These recommendations (and more) are discussed in more detail in the report.
The report is available here.