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Four decades ago, information scientist Frederick Wilfried Lancaster had a notion that paper — and the way we handle it on performing day-to-day administrative and governmental functions — could eventually be replaced by digitally stored information. The British-American theorist’s idea was pretty far-fetched then when computing was in its infancy, the notion of a digital age was the stuff of science fiction and futurists.

Now, the age envisaged by Lancaster is indeed upon us — and pixels have indeed truly replaced paper, at least as far as six separate government entities in Dubai are concerned. Dubai Police, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Roads and Transport Authority, Department of Economic Development, Dubai Land Department and the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing have together managed to cut their day-to-day paper use from 64 million sheets to just 37 million.

So how is this revolutionary shift from paper to pixels possible? Well, the pervasive presence of the internet allows for our personal records to be stored on the cloud, allowing officials to be able to access those digital records pretty instantaneously. The data is protected, safe and secure, and the process allows for literally tonnes of paper to be removed from administrative systems, streamlining efficiencies and bringing cost-savings too.

We all are in love with our smartphones, and having those devices at our fingertips and in our pockets, provides a safe, efficient and protected means for communication to be shared, records accessed and information updated to reflect our latest status — whether that be our water and electricity accounts, our traffic files and fines or the status of applications with various entities.

The shift from paper to pixels also reflects the commitment of government entities at every level of the UAE to bring efficient working and daily interactions on-stream, increasing productivity and allowing for greater transparency in our interactions with officials. While the more traditional still prefers the feel of paper, the reality is that it will soon be totally phased out from our interactions with agencies and departments.

The goal is that by 2021, all the transactions at every level of government services in Dubai alone will become paperless — and other emirates and entities will follow suit. Dubai’s move to a paperless administration will bring Dh900 million in efficiencies, saving 125 million man hours and removing million of sheets of paper from the environment, reducing our carbon footprint, committing to green methodologies and more sustainable habits.