Daily Dose: Goodbye Filing Cabinets, Hello Digital Archives

The Washington Post reported this week that President Obama issued an order to agencies, asking them to utilize digital record keeping systems. As of right now, much of the filing that is being done “is based on an outdated approach involving paper and filing cabinets,” but Obama wants to “move the process into the digital age.”

“It sounds like a sensible evolutionary step forward,” said Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists and director of its Project on Government Secrecy. “Some people might even be surprised that it hasn’t already been accomplished,” he said. “But the wheels of the bureaucracy turn slowly.”

The National Archives and Records Administration pointed out that agencies who have not been keeping up with digital records are technically not complying with legal requirements under the Federal Records Act. By not having records digitized, it is difficult to keep the agency transparent.

While digitizing records will be a cheaper, faster way for Americans to access government data, there is some concern about the security issues surrounding this process.

Do you think all government documents should be digitized, or should some stay on paper?

Obama ordering agencies to keep better digital records


“Daily Dose of the Washington Post” is a blog series created by GovLoop in partnership with The Washington Post. If you see great a story in the Post and want to ask a question around it, please send it to [email protected].

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Jay Johnson

I think the benefits (more green, less space required, easier to find) definately outweigh the liabilities (initial effort to switch existing records, possibly losing something). The probable exception would be classified materials.

Ramona Winkelbauer

Benefits only if the e-storage doesn’t have technological incompatibilities (e.g., NASA tapes that weren’t readable due to not having working mechanism) or backup (i.e., paper can be scanned again, but a defunct HD is fairly useless).

Julie Chase

Ah yes, taming the government paper tiger. Paper Reduction Act…ever hear of it? Yes, us too. In our organization we have approached this from a “calmer” PoV, as we were getting no where with “meetings” with our IT security people. Since thumb drives are banned on all NMCI computers (DoD)…. we purchased “approved” external hard drives. By approved, once an organization “decides” it would like to “purchase” IT, “paperwork”, (oops, I said it) has to be done. With the help of Adobe, we have waved a magic wand and changed the “approval” forms to fillable .pdf. This allows for digital signatures and to pass on the process via email. Worked like a charm. It took about 3 weeks to get the “approval” and about another to receive the “ex hard drive”. Oh, I’m not done. The ex hard drive had to be delivered to our IT security folks so they could run “tests” on it for spyware, malware, whatever. Yes, IT security “recommended” the type, brand, model to purchase, and we did, but still it had to be “tested”. Once it was tested, took about 3 1/2 days, it had to be “recorded” as government property. Once again, .pdf, digitally signed, emailed. I know it shocked the socks off the IT and the property depts. that our little organization became “innovative” vs. combative. We are now “archiving” alot of the paperwork that up until a month ago, was stored in cardboard boxes on shelves in a big closet (which is bursting at the seams). There are paper files that (according some regulation/directive) must be kept as paper for 6 – 7 years. Others, 1-2 yrs. and everything in between. For once I am optimistic that this is going to work, now that my organization has moved from 1990 to 2000. Could 2012 be far away?