Why Digitisation of Every Record is Essential for Smart Officer

No more data entry operators in Government Offices, please. By using simple scanning application on your mobile phones, the Government Officer can significantly take control of the productivity and speed up a lot of processes and become Smart Officer. Look around the Ministries and you will find various forms of Digital Assistants roaming around. Sometimes called as Data Entry Operators (DEO), Programmers, Office Assistants, Personal Assistants and many more variants are roaming in the corridors of Lutyens Delhi. These all hired resources are primarily doing digitisation of records, files, receipts etc.

Still, there is a compounding problem creeping in each of the Ministries

  • Paperwork becomes a major overhead/cost for the Admin Section of the Ministries.
  • The number of active files grows day by day. Each Year, new files are opened and thus files grow day by day.
  • Section Officers waste time searching through misfiled, mislabeled, untracked or lost information from various receipts and files.
  • Section Officers, MTS, Peons, DEOs, PPS, PAs all waste time on misplaced paperwork.
  • Many records, due to lack of proper record management, are removed/destroyed.
  • At any point in time, some files/records are found to be lost or misplaced.
  • Recreating a destroyed/misplaced file/information is a challenge as well as a waste of time and money in the plethora of Government files

When many ministries are shifting to eOffice, we are getting extremely dependent on Data Entry operators to whom we are not just handing over our productivity but sensitive data too.

Why Digitization is important in Government Ministries

The ability for more than one person to access images at once
the officers, Sections and other sections can concurrently access the same image and document. Thus Sections, Officers do not need to maintain multiple copies of the same document.

Access from anywhere at any time
Really this benefit is closely related to the previous one, but the previous point was specific to concurrency in the number of users (20 users imagine sharing). Apart from access while users can do from different locations, different devices, anytime.The physical documentation usually has a schedule of access and is available in a section or as part of the file, but the pressure of work in Government now knows no timetables or regions, making work and operations throughout the week.

Greater integration with business applications: Integration is one of the fundamental pillars of document management, since many business applications produce documents, and also many applications that exploit them. In eOffice, you can scan and use the document as part of the file or as part of the Knowledge Management System (KMS) application or may simply be used to send it over WhatsApp.

The elimination of hybrid systems (paper and digital) that can confuse users who want access to the entire history of a case:
There will be some updated documents in a digital paper that are obsolete, and in many cases, it will be difficult to know which is the latest version of the document or set of documents in question. Furthermore, as indicated from the norm, tracking (history) to the evolution of the document will be really difficult to do, since the document may be digital in some versions, and on paper in a specific location for other versions.
Integration with the Ministries procedures for disaster recovery and backups:
Backup copies of paper documents, in a really high percentage of cases, not performed. The reason is that it tends to ensure the environment but maintaining physical duplication in at least two locations of paper documents, would involve an investment really high. However, once digitized documents, this is immediate. There are many ways to make automated backups over time (incremental backups) completely transparent to all users in a Ministry.
Most Importantly the ability to increase the productivity of the office:
Document capture systems that support document scanning reported drastic reductions of manual labour of MTS and Peons, or what is the same, release team task as identifying documents, archiving according to their type and extraction information contained in the documents.
Between 60 and 90% of the costs of such tasks are entirely avoidable using support advanced capture system.

What is Digitisation

Text and images can be digitized similarly: a scanner captures an image (which may be an image of text) and converts it to an image file, such as a bitmap. An optical character recognition ( OCR ) program analyzes a text image for light and dark areas in order to identify each alphabetic letter or numeric digit and converts each character into an ASCII code.

Features of a Good Scan

  • The scan must be complete (e.g., every receipt and missing original receipt form for a given record, file must be included);
  • The scan must be legible to ensure that the scan is not blurred or indistinguishable; Each individual document is captured completely, and the resulting image is not crooked or skewed.
  • The document must be scanned at a resolution that will capture the finest significant details of the original, typically a minimum resolution of 150 dpi;
  • The scan must be saved in PDF or TIFF format and must not be further altered; and
  • The scan must be saved in a location that is known, identifiable, secure, and backed up on a regular basis. As with paper records, scanned records must be accessible when needed, and kept in a secure location to prevent accidental or intentional alteration or loss.

How to start Scanning

In everyday life, paper documents are indispensable. We work with them on a daily basis and therefore most of us have print- and scanning devices in the office. Apart from scanning the old and existing records on outsourcing manner, the most important habit an office need to make is Self Digitization of documents and receipts. The solution is by using a simple scanning mobile application Scanbot. Well, this post is not about which app to use and which one is better. I have chosen to use Scanbot as my preferred app, you may choose others.

Self-digitation is the key to success

I frequently see officers making (still) photocopies of important files, note sheets and documents. Many inter-departmental notes have what is called as Shadow file, wherein a parallel file is created for the file received from other departments. IFA often does that. The decision is made in the shadow file and the junior officer then records the decision of the ministry in the main file which as comes from another ministry.

Those who graduated to smartphones, are effectively using Whatsapp & cameras to take pictures of the documents and then store it over mobile. Some of them have started using scanning of the document as an image and then uploading it to their own email.

This may work momentarily. But as the documents grow in size, they are simply lost both over photo gallery and also those sent over email. Searching for a document stored as an image in the photo gallery is impossible after a point of time. Also, a document with multiple pages cannot be just stored as an image in photo gallery. They need to be part of one document.

Similarly, the camera generally stores the file as image wherein the name is image.jpg image1.jpg or in newer phones, they have their own naming. If these images are then stored over email, they are liable equally to get lost in the maze of emails, especially the official email ID generally provided by NIC. As NIC provides unlimited space for the email to Government officials, so the emails are never managed in a so-called ‘Zero inbox’ methodology.

On the other side, DAPRG has implemented eOffice as Mission Mode Project for the Government of India. eOffice ensures that all files are processed online, each physical documents are scanned, diarised, and sent as eReceipts. In the Ministry, the mails (Daks) are received in the Receipt and Dispatch Section (R&I). R&I scans and digitizes the physical daks and forward it online to the respective sections or officers.

However, the problem arises when the letter (Dak) is addressed by name. These Daks are not opened at R&I but are sent to the respective officer concerned in the closed condition. These Daks are then opened by PPS / PS / Private Secretary of the officer and submitted in the dak pad. These Daks are then marked by the officer concerned and then forwarded to the respective section. Now if the Dak is not digitised at the point of entry, it loses its visibility and trackability. The physical dak is left at the mercy of subordinate officer, generally Section Officer / ASO to then digitise it. And I must admit, this digitisation at the section level rarely happens. The officer who had originally received it might be interested in follow-ups and actions are taken there off. In absence of digital dak and file, it is sheer impossible to track anything.

Using Scanbot

Image from Scanbot main website

With Scanbot you can easily scan documents, QR Codes, barcodes, business cards. You can save your documents as PDF or JPG. Scanbot supports all major cloud services and remembers your last folders so that you can upload the documents with one tap. Or you can set up one location where all captured documents get transferred automatically. I save the default scans over iCloud and also over Google Drive. One of my best integration is with Todoist. You can read my blog post here: 10 Must have productivity apps for Senior Government Officers

Besides being a document scanner, Scanbot is a great tool to work with PDFs. No matter if you need to add notes to a document, sign it or highlight important parts, Scanbot get the job done quickly. You can even move the pages, rearrange them or add some more. The annotation mode in Scanbot features the most common tools. I use a pen to add handwritten notes or drawings, the marker to highlight important parts, the note/comment tool to add even longer text or the signature tool to sign your documents on-the-go. Thus after scanning a receipt, an officer can record its remarks on to it before forwarding it to the subordinate officer.

The text recognition (OCR) in Scanbot Pro allows you to full-text search inside your scanned documents. This makes it super easy to find the missing receipts.

Demo of Scanbot

Here is the short demo of how I scan the receipt and upload it to iCloud drive. The whole process of scanning takes less than 30 seconds and the scanned document is available on all my iOS devices immediately.

With scanbot, I had complete freedom of performing a coloured scan, photocopy scan, annotating the document, adding and merging the PDF, adding encryption, transforming the document as a task (through todoist), emailing it and lastly storing it seamlessly for all times to come.

Scanning has not only made my workflow super efficient but also made my table clean. Studies show that working in a space loaded with paper and other clutter can decrease your productivity. How? Despite all the emphasis our society places on multitasking, we humans are terrible at it. All those sticky notes and papers compete with your never-ending to-do list for your attention. The result: You’re spread thin. And it’ll take you longer to get a single job done in the Government Office. 

Clean table of Smart Officer

I hope you appreciated the digitisation requirement in Government Offices in the modern times. We all must graduate from paper receipts. Also, we must all graduate from WhatsApp image-sharing too and start using professional scanning tool from our smartphones. We must be now labelled as Smart Officers.

Do you use Scanning Applications on your smartphone? Has it helped you in being more productive? What other apps you use for scanning? Let me know in the comment box below.

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Also published on Medium.

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