Manual forms = triple work!
When talking about digitization in Norway, the term ”digital first” is often mentioned. It should rather be called ”simpler everyday life” since that is just what it is, both for citizens and officials.
This fall, my oldest daughter started elementary school. Oslo’s smallest school, a renovated old building with enthusiastic teachers and committed employees - the conditions for the first school years couldn’t be better. But the school start also includes some paperwork and so far I haven’t seen anything but printed manual forms, most of them without pre-selection options, which makes me rather disappointed.
Digitizing is all about efficiency. In my opinion to free time, not to cut back on jobs.
When I manually fill out a two-pages form, it takes me longer than it would have on my Mac. I think very few people write faster by hand than on a keyboard, at least if the text should be readable and understandable. But that's really not the most important.
When I submit a form I’ve filled out manually the person who receives it probably uses at least as much time as I did to enter the information into a digital system. Duplicate work.
Moreover, it’s very likely that some (or all) of the text is difficult to interpret, that something is missing or misspelled. Triple work.
If there wasn’t enough space on the paper for everything that had to be written, which happens quite often, it will be difficult to keep track of which parts of the text that are associated with each other. Quadruplicate.
Thousands of manual forms and documents in different shapes just for the schools in Oslo lead to years of extra work. And if I have to update something, like an address or a phone number, we have to go through the same procedure again.
All of this can actually be boiled down to one thing: quality. Teachers, school nurses and everyone else involved are probably just as little interested in repetitive work as the rest of us. Especially when the work is perceived to be a part from the actual work, which is the children. The risk of failing in concentration and thus erroneous data input is great.
Furthermore, this information can already be found somewhere else. National registries keep track of which parents are connected to which children, as well as of their address.
Handwriting is important
Don’t misunderstand me – it’s important to be able to write by hand. But it's more important to let parents, teachers and all other staff spend their time where they do the most good. And that’s not in front of a computer entering data, which the parent could have done him- or herself, or which should already have been inserted.
Torbjørn Helland Solhaug