What Happened to the Paperless Office Dream?

As early as the 1970’s, business experts like Vincent E Guiliano of Arthur D. Little Inc, the world’s oldest management consultancy firm, predicted “Paperless Office” by 1980. The prediction came about due to the surging technology during that time. However, it’s been almost 40 years since that prediction, and even though technology has already made a big difference to businesses and the world, paper use is still in demand, more than ever actually.

This year, the expected global demand for paper reached its highest with more than 400 million tons. This amounts to 7.2 billion trees before recycling or 4 billion trees after recycling; that is a lot of trees. So what exactly happened to Paperless Office? And why is there still a high demand for paper?

Between 1980 to 2000

The digital revolution was predicted to decrease paper use but instead, increased it to more than 100 percent. The average US office consumed 62 lbs of paper annually in 1975, to 143 lbs by 1999. So what went wrong?

There is no doubt that technology continues to make things easy for us. However, it takes time for innovation to become perfect. Between the 1980s to the year 2000, computers were slow and crashed more than it worked. Printers were becoming more accessible to consumers and printing started to become cheaper. These two factors led consumers to print more documents to solve the problem of unreliable computers. Computers were only good for typing and creating documents, hard copies were the real deal.

Between 2001 to 2012

In 2001, US office’s use of paper was at a steady level and still shows a steady decline since then. If it’s in a steady decline then why is paper still in demand? According to economists, the paper demand problem is more sociological than technological. The US and European countries’ paper demand continues to fall because these countries are more adjusted to technology, thus having workers whom are more used to using advanced business tools like email, Internet, other programs and devices. Workers from these countries find less need to print documents.

Paper demands are the highest in emerging economies because they lack technological tools like computers and other devices. Most households in developing countries still do not own their own computers. This pushes them to rely on printing documents because they do not have anywhere to save and read their files.

World population is also seen as another factor as to why paper demand is still high. Developing countries have a high population rate, therefore needing more paper in terms of schooling, business process, and other operations.

Technology may realize the paperless office one day but for now, new devices are emerging that makes decreases the demand for printing like tablets and smartphones. However, these devices are also capable of easily printing and as printing becomes cheaper and cheaper, consumers have more reason to print their documents.

 

Source:

http://www.itproportal.com/2012/03/09/paperless-office-why-it-never-happened/

This Article is written by John C Arkin.



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