The use of fax machines by individuals for personal use never really took off. However, today over 50% of all homes have Internet access. This means that even non-business communications and transactions can be conducted electronically. Thus, a majority of us can send and receive emails and pay our bills electronically from home. And, of course, we can get newspapers and magazines and buy goods and services online. Various government services, such as motor vehicle license renewals, are increasingly available online.
There is no question but that this trend will accelerate because the transactional processing cost is so much lower than with traditional methods. By way of example, in Maryland one can renew a motor vehicle registration online literally up to the last minute before expiration. In exchange for extending to the consumer the speed and ease of taking care of this chore at home (not to mention the boon to procrastinators), the state government is able to reduce the costs of processing the transaction. After all, there is a reduction of amount of physical office space that has to be dedicated to renewals (often at fairly pricely leased locations) and, most importantly, the labor involved in processing the renewals is reduced. In due course, the number of locations where these sorts of transactions can be conducted on a face-to-face basis will decline and the their hours of operation will be cut back.
In a similar fashion, banks are attempting to promote various sorts of online payment methods because of the savings they realize.
And, of course, emails are both quicker and cheaper to send than letters.
I am certain that, initially, we will hear more complaints from groups that will not or can not participate in Internet commerce and communication. However, I suspect that the number of complaints will decline fairly rapidly as Internet access is viewed in the same way as telephone access is now.
When I began practicing law, there was twice daily mail delivery in the central business district. Today, that seems quaint. Within ten years, the conduct of personal business and commercial affairs via postal mail will seem equally archaic.
Via Denise Howell at Between Lawyers:
From Swissinfo.com, Registered E-post will soon be reality: "Since the beginning of 2005, the electronic signature in Switzerland has had the same status as a handwritten signature for contracts and business transactions."The Wired GC dissents.