India’s Move to Digital Documents in Light of COVID-19

Young Indian woman working on computer.

by Abhigyan Modi

posted on 05-19-2020

For millions of people across the globe, COVID-19 has amplified just how much we rely on tactile forms of communication to get things done. With such limited face-to-face interaction, even the most everyday tasks, like chasing down a co-worker for a last-minute signature or making photocopies to hand around a classroom, pose logistical challenges.

Though it sounds inconsequential, it’s these everyday tasks that keep organisational cogs turning, and any disruptions can result in operational gridlock. At best, there might be a slight delay in proceedings, but at worst it can bring entire networks to a standstill. These challenges can have enormous cumulative impact on any large-scale setup, or for that matter, on the world’s largest democracy – India.

With the government’s impetus on digitisation, India has made remarkable progress on addressing such issues by expediting its transition from paper to digital. That said, the current COVID-19 world order has brought India’s digital mission to the forefront.

Take a visit to a doctor for example. What was once a task you’d complete on autopilot, now presents a number of new challenges to think about. For instance, India’s lockdown regulations require citizens to carry a signed, Government-issued permission slip to leave home and attend to other business. Then, once you arrive at the appointment, something as routine as queuing to fill out a form becomes exponentially riskier. It’s simply not safe to have people stand too close together, and it’s completely impractical to have to sanitise a pen after every use.

In today’s climate, it’s important that workflows are safe, accessible and accelerated; qualifiers compromised by paper-based systems. Digital documents and signatures provide safe and efficient workarounds and help to put the population at ease. In the above scenario, a digital system enables citizens to prepare forms at home, and request and receive permission to attend the appointment within the space of a few hours.

Remote learning uncovers new possibilities

The uptake of digital documents in the education sector during this unprecedented time will change the future of learning. Students and teachers have been forced into remote learning scenarios, far removed from the communal — and somewhat preferred — nature of the classroom.

In remote learning environments, digital document, scan and PDF solutions make it possible for teachers to bring elements of the physical classroom, like a chalkboard or a sketchpad, into the virtual world within a matter of seconds. Students can engage and interact with the material as they would face-to-face, creating a fun and dynamic way to learn. Furthermore, the amount of paper involved with tasks like assignment submissions is eliminated when students and teachers can complete and sign forms digitally, and share documents back and forth in an organised, safe environment.

The successful continuity of learning and operations under these circumstances suggests remote learning may have been under realised and is a field we should explore further. In a world where so many people have limited or no access to education, this kind of workflow is a very exciting prospect indeed. Here in India, it’s encouraging to see a number of emerging start-ups keenly focused on this space.__

Innovating to make a difference

What excites me most about the work we do at Adobe is observing our solutions making a real-world difference. At this critical time, one of the great challenges we face here in India concerns food distribution, particularly to regional communities where thousands of people have been affected. The problem is due to a breakdown in supply chains, which rely on stringent — often analogue — safety and compliance checks to function.

The typical process begins with an NGO raising an intention to distribute food with the government. From there, the request is assessed and approved by a government service officer, who then initiates a new workflow with ration suppliers, who work with packagers to pack food into ration boxes. Next, the rations are sent to the NGO which arranges distribution to affected communities.

It’s a complex process with many working parts. To keep it moving in recent months, Adobe has been working with NGOs and Civil Services Association with their project Caruna to implement automated workflows that connect all stakeholders and open distribution channels fast and at scale. In this context, digital forms and signatures circumvent the logistical risks involved with analogue systems.

Digital future

Many organizations have experienced their own digital transformation journeys over the last few weeks and are likely planning for life and business in the future. One thing is certain, COVID-19 will change the lives of individuals and businesses alike, and technology will be central to that change.

Let’s take the Financial Services industry, as an example, where contactless interactions will become a big part of consumer preference and behaviour. Moving away from paper processes (like filling out paper forms, needing ink signatures and submitting hard copy documents) – traditional retail and commercial banks will have to rapidly pivot to an all-digital experience for customers. While this digital-first society may leave financial institutions vulnerable to costly delays and risks related to security, compliance and legal frameworks, these organisations will experience long-term benefits from technology becoming mission critical. Digital will become key to acquiring new customers with paperless onboarding and delivering a seamless experience for existing customers.

Led by the power of digital, these small shifts can sure go a long way in helping organizations navigate the months ahead and importantly, ensuring a good experience for their people.

This article was originally posted on Business World.

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Topics: Future of Work, News, COVID-19, APAC