I found the BBC News story today regarding digitisation of the UK Courts system very interesting. The Government has plans to make courtrooms in England and Wales “fully digital” by the year 2016, ending what it described as “an outdated reliance on paper”. In addition to initiatives such as secure Wi-Fi in courts and the routine taking of evidence by video-link, the plans include getting “rid of our outdated paper-based system”.
This story just hit home once again to me the slow pace within the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry of the adoption of digital technologies that facilitate a paperless environment. We’ve recently had the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issue a reflection paper on the management of clinical trial documents (the TMF) and they’re still urging caution on any reliance on digital records! At the same time we see the legal profession itself absolutely comfortable with a digital environment….. electronic signatures and all! And as we look at other sectors of industry – from banking and finance through to retail – they have mostly been using technologies that support a paperless office for many years.
This is the 21st century; a time when we have International Standards for digital certificates and European Directives for Electronic Communications and for Electronic Signatures. So isn’t it about time we broke down the final barriers to working digitally? Next time you create a document that has a wet-ink signature line, just ask yourself “Is there a technology out there that can enable me to capture that signature digitally and still remain compliant with the pertinent regulations?”. I’m willing to bet that 99% of the time, the answer will be a resounding “Yes”.