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Transparency and Open Government? But, How?

In light of recent federal reform to modernize records management government-wide, a new chapter opens promoting transparency and accountability of information at the state, city and local levels. In fact, this sentiment was echoed recently at county and city events in discussions about transparency and open government becoming more than just a hot button topic. Now it’s a requirement.

As public officials begin to move towards transparency, staff is already stretched thin due to the current economic climate. It’s a struggle to figure out where to even begin. More importantly, how can they afford it with reduced staffing.

As counties and cities consider their options, we already know some things that hinder the journey to transparency:

  • Lots of paper that hasn’t been organized for the public to easily view, despite legal requirements around public records access in all jurisdictions.
  • Costs of staff time vs. new solution investment seems daunting. To meet records requests and be proactive, it’s not surprising that counties and cities limp along using the same manual methods even though they have less staff than ever.
  • Evolving constituent expectations force government to keep the pace of evolving with the speed of technology. Even if traditional ways of meeting requests were sustainable, constituents are asking why they can’t just surf to a website or their phones to review records.

So, how can you increase transparency using enterprise content management (ECM)?

Offer self-service by putting documents on the web

Foster internal transparency by giving staff easy access to documents using an ECM solution. Now they answer constituent concerns by linking documents to a website, allowing the public to search and view documents, 24/7 from their homes. Your transparency has increased without requiring constituents to travel to your office, and with less staff time required to find, photocopy and provide these documents. Set up a storefront or kiosk to sell documents, preserving a revenue stream with a self-service delivery system.

Manage your agendas and offer them online efficiently with ECM

Documents necessarily drive our government, but decision-making is what constituents really want to understand and that means insight into deliberations and decision-making. You could print hard copy agenda packets, but these are large, expensive and time-consuming to produce. ECM saves time and money by automating agenda packet creation and approval while satisfying open-meeting requirements. So, by you can provide sustainable transparency by publishing agendas to the web and you’ll improve and simplify work processes at the same time.

Provide records in a timely and still protect confidential data

Another challenge with public records requests is collecting the documents and packaging them to the requestor in a timely fashion. With less staff to manage the growing number of requests, constituent service is hampered. Adding to the challenge is the potential for accidental release of confidential information. Confidential information requires redaction so that account numbers, social security numbers, etc. are not released to the public. ECM offers process automation that finds confidential data automatically creates a redacted version that can be released by the public.

Whether it is 24/7 access to documents, constituent self-service, better agenda management or faster public records requests, the important thing is to move away from paper and step into the transparent world of ECM because “digital opens doors.”

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