Dematerialization in our lives: from physical to virtual

2024-04-10 07:36:17

The UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) defines dematerialization as “the reduction of the total material and energy throughput of any product or service”.

In a company or organization, dematerialization is the replacement of its material information carriers (often paper) by computer files and computers.

The process began 20 years ago, and today, we are even dematerializing computers, keyboards, mice by replacing them with virtual machines, in a cloud.

What is the objective of dematerialization?

Dematerialization improves the quality of life by facilitating access to teleworking in companies. Furthermore, going digital reduces the risk of document loss and guarantees optimal traceability. Working with digitized documents finally saves you significant space.

Advantages of dematerialization

There are many advantages to dematerialization, such as saving space, saving time, easier access to data (“search” tool), security (prevents counterfeit bank notes), traceability, realization savings, or even the reduction of the ecological footprint.

The physical format of archives has the advantage of being kept for an unlimited period.

The risks of breakdown or IT incident or even cyber attack do not exist as with digital technology.

Little anecdote: if the Panama Papers archives had only been in paper format, it would have taken two semi-trailers to steal them, not just a series of remote clicks.

What are the disadvantages of dematerialization?

In addition to requiring access management and perfectly secure software, it also requires training employees in good cybersecurity practices.

The environmental question

You might think that digital is more environmentally friendly than paper, but that is not always true. Preserving digital data requires energy to run servers constantly. And did you know that producing a paper document emits almost no CO2, while a digital document is equivalent to 15 grams of CO2 per year.

On a daily basis, we are faced with the usual dematerialization: identity paper, car sticker, payments, invoices, receipts, paper letters, newspapers, tickets, but also carpooling is a form of dematerialization, renting a car rather than buy it. With the advancement of AI today we can have a virtual friend… he he!

In conclusion, dematerialization offers us many advantages, but it also poses challenges in terms of security and impact on the environment.

Good news: the virtual world is not likely to replace our physical world but to enrich it.

Sources :

Wikipedia: Dematerialization

Dematerialization and environment: solution or greenwashing? Elliot Boucher

Dematerialization: what advantages and disadvantages?

Photo credit : Microsoft Copilot Designer AI Image Generator

#Dematerialization #lives #physical #virtual

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