The digital revolution - a knife that cuts both ways

The digital revolution acts as a multiplier, in terms of quantity and speed, to what we do and produce.

However, when imposed inappropriately, it also multiplies virtual paper shuffling, make-work and stress.

So it is heartening to read that the Government is moving from a government-centric approach to a citizen-centric one for its digital products and services ("Navigating the brave new world of digital disruption"; Dec 27, 2016).

For too long, public and private organisations have given themselves free rein to build a digital maze between themselves and users, and expected users to "face it".

It is, therefore, a common experience for users to go through the process without seeing any logical visual progression, and to face bewildering graphics from stage to stage.

It is also common for users to take half a day or more to fill up a digital form because it was confusing and asked for too much information that was difficult to retrieve.

Sometimes instructions are so succinct that they remind me of electronic equipment manuals written by people barely literate in the English language and which often resulted in many people dumping the manual and proceeding by trial and error, instead.

For too long, public and private organisations have given themselves free rein to build a digital maze between themselves and users, and expected users to "face it".

The digital revolution also allows changes in rules, procedures and forms to be made very easily.

As a result, a torrent of new rules, procedures and forms are inflicted on users without let up.

I suggest that all organisations divide their rules, procedures and forms into important and less important ones.

The less important ones should be introduced in batches, say, every three or four months.

Soh Gim Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2017, with the headline 'The digital revolution - a knife that cuts both ways'. Print Edition | Subscribe