I would have posted this a long time ago and I was thankful I didn’t have to. NBI now has a solution. It may not be excellent but it works for now. I can say it’s already a step to getting things working better for all of us. But I’m presenting this anyway just to share the experience and as something we could all look back into. Enjoy reading!
I went to our municipal hall one Monday to get an NBI clearance. I am moving to another company and it’s one of the pre-employment requirements. The office won’t be open until eight in the morning so I went there at around 7:30 AM. I was advised that the wait will be awfully long so I decided to go earlier than I would normally prefer. My adviser couldn’t have been any more right.
There were already a number of people in the line when I got there but I didn’t mind. I just wanted to get things done early but not necessarily be the first one to do so. The office opened at 8 AM which earned them credit for being on time but the rest of the experience wasn’t very flattering. At 10:30 AM I have just finished Step 4 which was encoding and verification of your personal information. That was already two and a half hours and there are six steps.
For those who are not aware, here are steps 1 to 6:
- Line up for the application form.
- Fill out the form and line up for data validation/verification by one of their personnels.
- Line up for payment.
- Line up for data encoding. Make sure everything you wrote on the form was encoded right.
- Line up for fingerprinting and photo capture.
- Wait for release of your clearance. If your receipt was marked a different date, you can leave and just claim your clearance on the said date.
I had to put “line up” several times; I find it the best way to describe things to readers. There was too much of it that it will probably be the first thing you would recall about the experience.
Now let us shift things a bit, automation of office processes particularly registrations or applications is a common task to IT people. In fact it’s too common it’s already boring even for students. I could still remember that for the same reason, I chose to go for implementation of artificial neural networks for my dissertation; a relatively harder task. Being someone unsure of how they will fare in the IT industry, I wasn’t particularly a challenge-seeker. I simply wanted to do something different; something that was not boring. But no matter how boring it could be, the benefit of having processes automated for both the organization and the people they deal with is undeniable, it gives everybody more time for other things. If you still find it hard to realize that benefit, try buying yourself two and a half hours to add to your day.
The issuance of NBI clearances could make use of automation. The process is simple enough that I believe even volunteer programmers could do it. This is not to say that volunteer programmers are not good analysts. This is to say that the task is too simple that programmers could choose to do it for free and take it as volunteer work. Just imagine how faster things could be if they will choose to automate even just half of the registration process.
Contrary to what you might assume, I’m not the the type of person who wants almost everything automated. In fact although it’s a bit shameful for me to admit, I could say that I’m still a pen and paper person. But in this case of processing applications for NBI clearances, I just find it very reasonable to employ automation. The single-paged paper-based application form is very easy to create perhaps in an HTML form and the validation performed by the municipal hall personnels is similarly easy to implement both in client side and server side scripts. Also, the user will be mostly in charge of verifying correctness of their personal information, a task they could accomplish in a minute or so. Having just that, an online form, applicants can already be saved from the two-hour-long wait and use of paper can be massively reduced. Because if one would think about it, writing down things on a piece of paper just to be typed in by someone else to a computer is actually ridiculous to begin with. You need not be an excellent typer to do something like that. Well the forms can already be downloaded online but it doesn’t help that much if you would still need to line up for someone to validate the information you wrote down on it.
Processing payment is a different thing for not a lot of applicants possess credit cards or Paypal accounts, but programmers could certainly put it as a nice option. But since you would still have to appear to the office to get your picture and fingerprints taken, maybe you can just hand your payment there or present a printed receipt.
A lot of software developers will still frown at this solution for its lack of elegance. Certainly the whole process could be automated. But I’m merely stating what can be readily accomplished in a couple of days (maybe a day for some) and this post is not meant to discuss a solution architecture. The point is that the application process could be better without exerting too much effort so why isn’t there somebody working on it?
The rest of that Monday was uneventful so I don’t really have the right to rant about the application process wasting my time but then not everybody has that much time to spare. We could make things better. Let’s do it now. -aB