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The undesirable tyranny of online filing requirements

Increasingly, to function adequately an online capability is required. This involves expensive equipment, i.e., smartphones and laptop computers.

This requirement is wrong because it increasingly marginalizes the economically disadvantaged, the unemployed, those out of reach of WiFi and cellphone coverage, the disabled, those at society’s bottom, and those who work but who lack the desire or ability to function with society’s increasing technological demands. In other words, online filing requirements by business and/or government are exclusionary and discriminatory.

Thus, on their face, requirements for exclusively online filing, applications or processes should be illegal. Therefore legislatures and Congress should make any and all exclusively online filing requirements illegal.

This means there should be no rewards, no requirements no discounts for the online filing for anything. Of course, there is the societal or environmental benefit of reducing paper consumption and the speed entailed with automatic approvals and processes, but this benefit should never trump the benefit of being more inclusive and open.

For completing any number of tasks, online communication is quick, efficient and economical. But what is good and manageable for the majority often will not benefit a large minority. And what is good and easy for private and public administrative staff is not necessarily good for the public. The job of government or private administrative staff is to serve their customers or the public, not to operate in a more efficient but exclusionary fashion.

For example, let’s take a group most would profess to care about — those with no fixed residence, no job, no car, no smartphone and no computer. Or let’s look at those recently released from jail. Persons in such situations might desire to enter the mainstream, including working, but:

Only online employment applications are acceptable when applying for jobs.

Only online applications are acceptable when applying for any number of social service assistance programs.

Only online applications are acceptable when enrolling in academic classes or vocational training programs.

Only online communication is acceptable when interacting with taxing bodies or other government authorities.

How do such policies assist those people most ion need of what is being offered? Why should over-the-counter applications be banned?

Thus, we need approval, admission, ratification or validation procedures to be set as if the whole electronic system has failed and where paper communication is the only means of functioning. Then we’d have a more fair system plus we’ll provide for the inevitable disaster or contingency planning always needed but not incorporated often enough into our systems.

Our priority must be to serve taxpayers, constituents, the public, consumers and the disadvantaged, not government or company managers and staff who may seemingly benefit from the cost savings of eliminating having real people involved in approval processes, public interaction and/or communication.

It is guaranteed that perpetuating the electronic tyranny many have come to accept will exacerbate, not ameliorate, our current seemingly unsolvable social problem of a large population being left out and staying left out.

Brent Thompson lives in Ashland.