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States Not Prepared for Long-term Digital Record Keeping, Finds NASCIO Study

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Most businesses as well as government organizations are now considering document scanning services and so there has been a dramatic increase in the number of digital records in recent years. However, long-term digital record preservation is of great concern. According to the latest report from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) along with the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), most states are not prepared to deal with the unique management and preservation issues that are related to digital record keeping. According to the report, the volume and complexity of electronic government records continues to increase at an exponential rate.

Digital Record

Many State CIOs are also using cloud services and are considering virtual staffing services to store their electronic records. For instance, itv news reported that Jersey Archive store is relying on a digital preservation and archival safeguarding system to preserve its huge volumes of digital records. Jersey Archive holds the complete public record of States of Jersey, a photo archive of around 1.5 million images as well as digitized artifacts, such as registration cards from the Occupation.

Maintaining digital records helps in easy retrieval of information; also, you can save costs on virtual storage space. NASCIO and CoSA agencies have developed certain strategies that state Chief Information Officers (CIOs), their staffers and state archivists should consider when working together toward the preservation of digital archives.

Understand why it is important to preserve

Electronic records, especially government data, are often used at multiple levels of decision making. Close attention must be paid to ensure they are preserved and accessible when needed. It is important to ensure the electronic records of today are available in the future to protect citizen rights, document government, and preserve history. Sustained attention and resources are needed to ensure the long-term management and accessibility of our nation’s electronic records.

Collaborative effort helps

Collaborative effort helps in long-term preservation of electronic records. Joining stakeholder communities in a collaborative approach ensures that e-records are properly managed within the appropriate IT structure and archival requirements. State archivists and records managers are the primary stakeholders with expertise in maintaining e-records, while other stakeholders may include the Secretary of State’s office, the Attorney General’s office, and state agency business unit and program owners.

Improve awareness on management of electronic records

State CIOs can provide adequate employee awareness and training activities such as online training courses and ongoing follow-up and training to make sure that employees clearly understand their part in ongoing records retention compliance. Training and awareness should also include an overview of the issues and challenges related to electronic records management in state government, how to use new technologies implemented and understanding how records retention applies to alternative electronic communication devices as well as diverse social media platforms.

Choose public platforms for public business

Ensure that any account that is used for state business is subject to public records laws. All public officials must use official media accounts for state business, while personal accounts are for personal communication. Maintaining public records on public accounts helps to simplify the management and preservation of e-records, limits costly legal battles over public records, and makes long-term access of state electronic records much simpler.

Email record management

Emails play a key role in state government business. Email messages are subject to public records laws and they have to be managed accordingly. Emails may contain state electronic records such as documents and work processes routinely circulated via email, appointments to boards and commissions, hiring and firing decisions, contract negotiations as well as legal and policy decisions.

Choose the right, advanced technology

While choosing technologies, States must ensure that along with properly managing and storing electronic records, the inevitable obsolescence of the technology does not compromise the records’ integrity or accessibility. It is recommended to choose Enterprise Electronic Storage Options that can also be used by multiple agencies. Typical categories of these solutions include Electronic Records Management System (ERMS), Electronic Content Management System (ECMS) and Electronic Document Management System (EDMS).

Watch for changing operating models

While some state archives and records management staff are performing digital preservation in-house, there are others who are outsourcing preservation services. In such cases, the service agreement needs to be thoughtfully and carefully developed. It is critical for the state to clearly understand its rights regarding data and how the preservation provider is helping it perform its obligations to its citizens. State CIOs can provide valuable insights to reduce outsourcing risks and how to manage a variety of operating models in the best way.

Focus on data security

Electronic record breaches are common in this digital world. When considering outsourcing services, states have to be confident that third-party security practices are keeping electronic state records secure. NASCIO recommends states to adopt a data classification policy. This policy helps secure data by knowing what data is most sensitive and most in need of higher levels of security.

Maintain only relevant records

Records retention schedules and policies under state laws recommend preserving e-records for the appropriate amount of time. Disposing non-records minimizes the amount of data that needs to be stored. State archives and records management personnel can help determine which electronic files qualify as electronic records. While disposing or deleting electronic records, make sure to do so only in compliance with retention policies.

Social media policies and standards

As social media communications are often used in court cases, its content and accounts are required to be preserved as public records. Social media records that should be captured and preserved may include evidence of an administration’s policies, business, or mission, information only available on the social media site, official agency information as well as direct communication with the public using social media. State archives and records management personnel can help determine which records have long-term value and ways to preserve them.

Sustained funding is crucial

Nonstop funding and increased investment in collaborative research help in identifying best practices and models for the long-term preservation of electronic records. Certain innovative state IT funding and financing models identified by NASCIO that were successful in the states include benefits funding, bonds, budget and appropriation strategies, fee-for-service revenue, investment funds, outsourcing and managed services, performance-based contracting as well as public-private partnerships.

While there are solutions offered by document conversion companies to digitize files, maintaining these electronic files is now a challenge to states. However, by working together and by communicating to key players, state archivists and state CIOs can set in motion a plan to preserve digital archives for the future.

About Rajeev R

Rajeev R

Manages the day-to-day operations of MOS from NY. With an interest in information technology, Rajeev has guided MOS to extensive use of digital technology and the internet that benefits MOS as well as MOS clients.