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All the wasted paper

March 9, 2013

It is easy to realize how often people do some recurrent mistakes about using technologies, especially when we want to prevent damaging the environment. I am going to tell you several examples I have seen in different contexts.

– Teaching: ‘our school is a green school, so instead of printing homework, we publish it on our collaborative software (e.g. Moodle)’. It is the biggest mistake I have seen recently. If the homework is not an editable electronic document, your pupils won’t be able to write down the solution on it, so they are forced to print it and mark with a pen the right option in a multiple choice question or similars. The school is not a green school, it is only pretending to be so. The central point is that the paper is not printed out in the school, but it is printed out at the pupil’s home, so we are all together damaging the environment as well.

– Public administration: ‘you can manage all your taxes through the Internet, but we need you to send us all the documents signed by you‘. That is other uncomprenhensible behavior coming from the concept of ‘the office without papers’. According to the EU law, the public administration has to work with an EDRMS – electronic document and record management system – rather than paper. But, in fact, some countries haven’t implemented a real EDRMS. Whereas citizens are allowed to access their taxes through out the Internet, on many occasions they have to put their signature in a physical document rather than sign an electronic document with a digital signature.

– Department stores and supermarkets: ‘you have to pay the plastic bags because we want to prevent the environment‘, but you immediately get a large paper ticket with all the newest promotions they have for you. Well, in my opinion, we have to avoid using plastics bags; instead of that, we can recycle ours, or just use a troley or something like this. But, I am not able to understand what kind of environment they want to protect when nowadays the shopping tickets are the longest I have ever seen.

– Customer identity cards: ‘here you are all your accumulated customer points‘. I have a customer identity card from a book shop which is considerated a reference to follow by others. You can apply through the Internet to get your personal customer identity card you will keep all your shopping points in order to change them for some gifts or discounts. Dispite its web page, we have to go to the shop and order to print out the full list of points and discounts all over a shopping ticket. In conclusion, we have left our personal data and our email address when we apply for web registration, but we aren’t allowed to query how many points we have at the moment through the Internet. Furthermore, we have to spend time and fuel going to the shop and read a bit of information over a printed out document full of small adds. Where is the enviromental protection?

To sum up: we actually don’t know what are the real good side of using the new technologies, and we very often confuse the context of use in the electronic world. The central idea is that we should take care how to translate a analogical function or process to the digital world, because we might make a terrible mistake on how we can apply this process the right way.

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