The digitalization of paper records: e-files

Digital management opportunities and E-files have long been a topic of interest for politicians, public authorities and private citizens alike. The speed and extent to which documents are produced nowadays means that file-management processes need to be modernized. An important requirement is that files be accessible from anywhere and at any time. While introducing E-filing is somewhat controversial, can electronic file-management in the digital age really be avoided?

What is an E-File?

An E-file is simply a digitally stored version of a paper file. Like traditional paper files, E-files will contain the same sorts of documents and also be structured in a similar way. There’ll still be dividers separating different sections of the file but in digital form. However, a key distinguishing feature of E-files is that their contents can be accessed by many users simultaneously, not just whoever happens to be in possession of a paper file.

Advantages of E-Files

Digital filing simplifies and speeds up the management of files and statistics. This means less staff are required to maintain documents and more people can view and use the files. Such digital filing systems bring many advantages:

  • File data can be accessed and edited from anywhere, at any time.
  • E-files are stored safely and can be easily called upon for auditing purposes.
  • Time and expense can be spared by allowing multiple people to edit files at the same time.
  • The effort involved in file mapping and searching is reduced.
  • E-files are less costly and more environmentally friendly to maintain than paper files

Businesses and public authorities also save massive amounts of space by using digital filing systems. Moreover, according to a German study, the potential personnel cost savings for regional authorities is, on average, approximately €800,000 euros. Despite the fear of hackers manipulating data, the general safety level of electronic filings systems is no lower than paper systems. In some cases, documents in paper form can be easier to manipulate or destroy than their digital counterparts.

Disadvantages of E-Files

In spite of the numerous advantages, some disadvantages are also discussed in relation to electronic filing. Here, as already alluded to, the main argument is that E-files are more difficult to protect than paper files. Furthermore, the process of scanning and indexing paper files into digital form can be costly. Lastly, employees will have to be trained to operate the new E-filing technology.

Read more about data protection here

If you do move towards electronic filing, it’s important to make sure data protection officers and file-users are indeed well trained. At any rate, it seems that the trend towards digitalization will be difficult to avoid. In Germany, for instance, federal authorities will be required to use E-files from 2020 onwards.