Government's Record-Keeping Challenges
Read DGI's interview with him on what government needs to do in dealing with the 21st century world of electronic records.
Jason R. Baron, Director of Litigation, National Archives and Records Administration, was a presenter at DGI's March 17 E-Discovery, Records & Information Management Conference & Expo. View his remarks on "Three Suggested Improvements At The Nexus of E-Recordkeeping and E-Discovery", and read DGI’s interview with him on what government needs to do in dealing with the 21st century world of electronic records.
DGI: What do you see as the biggest recordkeeping challenges that federal agencies face?
JB: First, let me say I’m presenting my own views here. I see the biggest challenge as one that the government has faced for some time, namely, transitioning from the 20th Century paper-based world to the electronic world of the 21st century. Regretfully, it often feels like Groundhog Day to me, especially when I hear that an agency considers its official records only to be in paper and not electronic formats. The second challenge is email. We still have not solved the email conundrum, even at a time when the Web 2.0 world is becoming a challenge too. It seems that no one has a perfect solution as to how to archive everything efficiently. However, there’s certainly new generations of software out there that can help (e.g., e-mail archiving). Over time, more and more of government will adopt electronic record keeping including automated capture solutions, and end users will be more comfortable with the technology. It’s going to be a generational change.
DGI: Has litigation in general and e-discovery in particular had an impact on the government's recordkeeping practices?
JB: Litigation has had a large impact at the White House, where all email is now preserved as a permanent record. For the rest of government, different agencies are dealing with their recordkeeping and e-discovery obligations in various ways. It comes back to available technology and of course budget constraints. I would urge that CIOs and senior IT folks have a conversation with legal counsel in each agency, about what constitutes achievable goals. There are ways to convert to forms of electronic record keeping and automated capture solutions that are within the budgets of agencies without breaking the bank.
DGI: How does the Administration's desire to have agencies move towards cloud computing affect their recordkeeping responsibilities?
JB: This Administration is committed to moving the government toward cloud computing. As part of that effort, it’s important to keep in mind the government’s basic record-keeping responsibilities don’t go away if an agency’s records are “in the cloud.” NARA is working with other agencies to pilot an email in the cloud platform. We are in the beginning stages of this. But it’s very important to get it right.
DGI: What's the best advice you could give to agencies in these areas?
JB: My best advice is that agencies need to pull together essentially a SWAT team or “tiger team” to think about new issues arising related to the long-term storage of electronic records and e-discovery. We can always all do a better job in talking to each other and not being siloed in our own offices and cubicles.
My bottom line: I want to believe the next generation of public servants will do right by the American people by managing and preserving the government’s born-digital records, and providing the means for continuing access to them, so as to ensure that the history of the 21st century is properly preserved.