Cities recognize financial, efficiency benefits of going paperless

November 1st, 2013 | Posted by Kevin Corley in Business Process Automation

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently announced a $690,000 program intended to digitize processes associated with procuring small business licenses and permits by 2016, NBC Chicago reported. The city's Small Business Center, which issues construction and special events permits as well as granting business licenses, is going paperless in order to deliver more efficient services to Chicago residents and business-owners, according to the news source.

The plan is to kick off the initiative next year by launching an online wizard that will assist local business owners when it comes to securing licensing, planning and completing renovations, determining their eligibility for tax credits and other incentives, expanding their firms and more. The upgrade is projected to affect an estimated 6,000 local small business owners, many of whom are already accustomed to digital processes thanks to existing initiatives like e-billing, Mayor Emanuel noted in a recent statement.

"As more and more residents pay bills, apply for services and file their taxes online, city government needs to keep up," Emanuel said, as quoted by the media outlet. "With this investment we will bring small business services into the 21st century by moving licenses and permits to the web, helping businesses and residents save time and money."

Once the project is fully in place, officials expect it to save 120,000 pieces of paper per year.

Iowa municipality jumps aboard paperless bandwagon
Elsewhere in the country, the city of Spencer, Iowa, is launching a smaller-scale paperless initiative, according to the Spencer Daily Reporter. In a bid to achieve business process automation, the Spencer City Council recently digitized its operations by transitioning from printouts of memos, agendas and other documents to leveraging laptops and cloud technology, with the dual goals of cutting costs and maximizing efficiency.

"Our motivation was to save costs on paper and to use the technology available to us through these applications," said Mayor Reynold Peterson, as quoted by the news source. "We use mountains of paper, so the less that we use the more we can save the taxpayers."

Indeed, according to Mandie Roberts, director of the Spencer Public Library, the city uses an estimated 6,720 sheets of paper every year – a figure that may not come close to that of Chicago's Small Business Center, but still represents significant costs nonetheless.

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