In the era of Internet, there is a strong movement to digitise all forms format and force users to visit online to fill the form. Does this mean that in due course physical forms will lose its purpose and will be completely replaced by the online mechanism?
Yes, the advantage of the online form is tremendous. You get the details in the digitised format. Secondly, you can receive payments for the forms online by using online payment gateways. This way, the process is simplified, the user need not go to the office to obtain the form and then to submit the form in the office. The user gets the acknowledgement, and he/she can track the application/ form status online (in of course majority of the cases).
Then why do you still need physical forms?
Persons with no access to internet
Number one requirement for the physical form is for those who still do not have access to the web, computer or smart phones. The report said overall Internet penetration in India is currently around 31%. (Source). And the major penetration problem is in the rural India. Here is what one report state
“Urban India with an estimated population of 444 million already has 269 million (60%) using the Internet. Rural India, with an estimated population of 906 million as per 2011 census, has only 163 million (17%) Internet users. Thus, there are potential approximately 750 million users still in rural India who are yet to become Internet users; if only they can be reached out properly.”
A similar TRAI report states like this
Persons with poor knowledge of internet / online system
If you see the current generation of mobile/computer users, the majority of them are limited by the use of social media like WhatsApp and Facebook. But once it comes to filling the form online, the users just fails. It may either due to non-selection, incorrect format, missing validation entry or may be attributable to internet failure. It is essential that either the online form is flawless or there is an option for offline form entry.
Errors in Online Form
The biggest problem in online form filling is online form itself. How many times you have witnessed, server errors, errors on the incomplete page redirection, failure in submission e.t.c. Most of the Government are using local developers hired on contract from NICSI by NIC and placed for development. What is meant is that every time the wheel is re-invented. Every time a coding is done and using all most always different backend application. Admit it, the Government Online form system is still in infancy and will take much more time to mature. Now we do have 20-30% computer penetration, but we have 60-70% mobile penetration. Do we have the online mobile optimised forms? The answer is big NO.
Persons with Disability
The biggest problem faced is the PoW, the Persons with Disability. These people have the real issue in accessing the forms online. The assistance is weak, and they struggle even to find the form.
Till the industry matures, Government standardises the formats and backend, the interface is seamless, intuitive and interactive, the need for offline forms will continue for long and the Government sadly who are doing away with offline forms (even the links to the forms are also not visible or hidden deep down in the website), will have to evolve and keep the game simple. So does our efforts to capture and provide free forms for everybody. Read our mission here: What do FormStore Stand for