Society management

Towards a paperless society by 2024

The death of paper has been greatly exaggerated so far. Last year, for example, the Treasury Department sent tens of millions of stimulus checks through the venerable United States Postal Service. No doubt this year the IRS will be getting a lot of tax returns in the mail and sending many of those dreaded notices to taxpayers in the same way. Politicians covet the spectacle of showing tons of printed laws and regulations. The framing of certificates is always a matter of office. And the ritual of retrieving the morning paper from your driveway remains sacrosanct for people of a certain age.

And yet, the paperless future promised decades ago has made substantial progress in the past 2 years, perhaps more than at any other time in history. Thanks in large part to the pandemic, a host of “contactless” protocols and technologies have suddenly become familiar. From omnichannel, contactless delivery and curbside pickup to QSR codes, Apple Pay and workflow software, the momentum has moved irrevocably away from paper.

Indeed, a tipping point has been reached during the pandemic with businesses (for the most part) paving the way out of the tree forest. But the public sector has also intensified. In 2021, for example, the fashionable city-state of Dubai became the world’s first paperless government. In Japan, customs, immigration and quarantine documents can now be completed online before travelling, avoiding paper forms. The same has happened or is happening to every conceivable data that lived on some sort of paper form or card, from vaccine cards to restaurant menus to movie tickets to ballots.

According to global consulting giant McKinsey, 70-80% of buyers and sellers prefer digital self-service and/or remote human engagement over face-to-face sales interactions. It is becoming more and more likely, in fact, that the world will be paperless long before it is COVID-19 free. Here’s why.


Hundreds of once separate national economies are quickly becoming a single global economy moving towards a paperless or even cashless system. The US Federal Reserve System, which already creates hundreds of billions of dollars at the touch of a button, is currently studying an electronic currency similar to the digital yuan released by the Chinese central bank last year and already used by more than 100 millions of people. Electronic money means more trips to the bank teller or even the ATM. E-money is tied to your identity and distributed through your phone.

The paperless society may have started with a push towards a cashless society, but technology has fueled a much bigger movement.

Of course, payment methods like PayPal, Apple Pay, Venmo and Google Pay mean that paper dollars are more and more avatars these days – or maybe it’s the other way around? Electronic payments and virtual shopping carts are the norm in all industries, even in business-to-business transactions. This has fundamentally changed the labor market over the past 10 years. The disruptions over the next decade are sure to be even deeper. Given the choice of how to pay for their purchases, customers will use the most efficient, secure, flexible and fastest methods. Even the home rental industry has begun to migrate from the dreaded rent box to electronic portals that make paper checks obsolete and allow renters to pay with cash or credit.

Indeed, the use of checks has declined by almost 90% over the past decade, with some economists predicting that they will be obsolete by 2024, at the latest. Meanwhile, fintech and mobile payment apps, such as buy-now-pay-later, or BNPL, have been among the hottest investments in 2021, having proven themselves during the pandemic. Carbon paper printing devices for credit cards and even receipt are long gone. Now your phone is your credit card, ATM, checkbook and register all in one.

The Paperless Metaverse

In 2018, online payments grew nearly 40% to $904 billion. This figure is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2022, an increase of more than 200%. More than half of Americans now use a mobile device to make a purchase while Alipay, the world’s most popular digital-only payment system, has more than a billion users. India, the second most populous country on the planet, has seen an explosion in online payments and money transfers despite relatively low internet usage.

Almost everyone will now make a digital payment at some point in their life. And nearly nine out of 10 consumers will use a mobile payment device to do so. It’s not just the ease of use, but also the ubiquity of cell phones and apps that fuel the virtual metaverse. According to Statista, there are 300 million cell phones in the United States, which means that about 90% of Americans – and virtually all American adults – have one. Every business must now have online payments to provide the choice, flexibility, speed and convenience that the modern consumer expects. And if you need a contract executed, you better install DocuSign or another paperless application.


But digitization is not just about consumers. Digitization also has major benefits for businesses. As companies turn to software and even blockchain technology, they are getting efficiency and lots of data in return. Digital payments not only reduce costs associated with paper check processes – in 2018, North American businesses processed over $18 trillion in paper checks alone, but at a cost of over half a trillion dollars due to delays, labor and errors – they provide businesses with real-time insights into individual customer buying habits and preferences. Eric Schmidt, former chairman of Google, has long predicted that data will soon be worth more than oil, and the success of companies such as Alibaba and Amazon underscores this point.

follow the money

“If you want to know who’s hurt and who’s being helped,” famous attorney Gloria Allred said, “follow the money.” Consider, then, a recent study by credit card issuer Mastercard which found that while holiday spending increased 8.5% in 2021, e-commerce sales increased 11% from 2020 and a staggering 61% increase since 2019. Digital spending is clearly hurting cash and helping other non-paper payment methods.

Visa, Mastercard and JCB will all switch to a ‘cashless’ payment system by the end of the decade, while other countries, such as Dubai and Japan, will either be cashless or digitizing documents paper, records and systems by then. Meanwhile, drivers in some US states will soon be allowed to carry a digital version of their driver’s license on their iPhones, and millions of people already keep boarding passes and vaccination proof cards on their digital devices. , among others.

So the paperless society may have started with a push towards a cashless society, but technology has fueled a much bigger movement. A virtuous circle is forming in which digital payment systems open the door to more paperless tasks, increasing non-cash spending in the economy and also helping to reduce costs for businesses.

Proving the point can be this article itself, which you are undoubtedly reading on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop. When Amazon released the Kindle reader 14 years ago, it didn’t make much of a splash. People associated reading with paper and ink, and Apple’s attempt at a personal assistant, the Newton, had already failed. A student at Harvard, where Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was speaking, advised him to sell his business to Barnes & Noble before it was too late.

But then people started realizing that if they could read business documents online, why not magazines, newspapers and even books? Today the Kindle is a huge hit and finding a Barnes & Noble is nearly impossible. Fax machines and copy shops are also relics. The paper itself can’t be too far behind.

KMWorld Blankets