The past few years have witnessed document digitization across various sectors such as medicine, law, education, libraries, government departments, and business organizations. Digitization of documents is gaining importance, especially in e-Governance projects, as it ensures data security, increased transparency in the functioning of government departments, faster citizen services as well as reduced communication costs and duplication of work.
Many e-governance projects require the scanning of millions of records. Today court houses and investigation departments are greatly stepping up digitization of records, as digitally converted documents can be moved and accessed more rapidly and less expensively than in traditional paper based systems.
According to a recent report, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has completed the digitization of millions of records as part of its modernization drive. This is expected to help the FBI save time, cut costs and improve efficiency.
FBI records include investigative files, personnel files, criminal identification records, fingerprint cards, and civil identity files. It is reported that more than 30 million records and about 83 million fingerprint cards were converted to digital format in the Bureau’s Next Generation Identification (NGI), a system for storing biometric and different types of identity data.
FBI files subject to digital conversion can be broadly classified under three heads
- Criminal history files dating back to the early 1970s and before
- Civil identity files of people born prior to 1960 who have enlisted in the military or applied for a government job
- Fingerprint index cards
Such files are preserved until the subjects are 110 years old or dead.
Challenges in storing fingerprint images
Storing bulk of fingerprint images may be problematic for institutions performing large scale identification. Traditionally, the fingerprint images are acquired using the ‘ink technique’, where the subject’s finger is smeared with black ink, pressed and rolled on a paper card. Next the card is scanned to produce a digital image. Today, technology has advanced to such an extent that multi-finger or single-finger scanners can be used to record data as per requirements.
Advantages of the NGI System
The NGI system will replace the Bureau’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System or IAFIS and is expected to serve a wider group of prolific customers. Prospective customers include government employees, veterans, law enforcement agencies checking criminal histories and fingerprints, and FBI’s own laboratory.
With the former system, more than one month was needed to get a positive identification. But with NGI, files can be retrieved within a fraction of seconds or even sub-seconds. Other major benefits that the NGI system is expected to provide include:
- Automated fingerprint and latent search capabilities
- Electronic exchange of fingerprints
- Ability to process fingerprint transactions more effectively and accurately
The FBI provides fingerprint information and facts to 18,000 law enforcement agencies and other authorized criminal justice partners. The new system will serve these customers better.