Paperless progress?

One government department eliminates paperwork, but another one adds it back in again

Tags: PaperlessUnited Arab Emirates
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Paperless progress? Has paperwork really been eliminated? (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  February 7, 2018

Dubai has just announced the Dubai Paperless Strategy, which aims to eliminate all paperwork in government by 2021. It’s a good goal, and there’s no doubt that some Dubai government entities have made great progress already in cutting out the paperwork, but I can’t help but feel that often when one organisation eliminates paperwork, another adds it back into the equation – and in some instances, the amount of paperwork even seems to go up.

Let me give you an example – I just moved house, and my perception is definitely that there was more paperwork involved this time than the last time I moved, four years ago.

Getting power and water connected to the new apartment, disconnected at the old, and getting the final bills and deposits is great – all paperless so long as everything goes smoothly. In the middle of a house move, being able to ensure you’ve got light and water in your new home is a huge benefit, and well done to DEWA for providing this.

But now the Ejari – registration of the tenancy contract with Dubai Land Department – is compulsory, and it’s as paperwork intensive as any process could be. As a rule of thumb, if you have to queue up for someone to check you have the right documents before you can even join the queue for the actual process, then there’s too much paperwork.

The process of getting the paperwork is made more complicated by a lack of up-to-date online information and conflicting advice. On top of that, poor quality scans and copies of documents make it a gamble whether your paperwork is accepted, when really, what the process requires is digital authentication of identity and the right ID number, not a legible photo of the ID holder or their signature.

More frustrating is that often the pieces of paper that are required are identity documents or proof of ownership documents, documents that in many cases are issued by Dubai or UAE government entities in the first place. The need to present copies of these documents has not been eliminated, it has just been shifted to another government agency or process.

The situation is further complicated by private sector entities, in this case the real estate developers and management companies, now asking for paperwork as well, in the form of NOCs to allow move in or move out – and most of these procedures ask for the exact same ID copies that are already used in the government process, necessitating multiple copies of the same document and the same risk of having poor quality scans rejected.

I hope that the Dubai Paperless Strategy can eliminate all this duplication of documentation, ideally using the Emirates ID or national electronic passports so that we don’t have to get another ID document to replace the paper copies. A lot of work has been done already, so it is time to enable digital signatures, identification and authentication, and throw out the paper copies once and for all.

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