Despite this era's amazing advances in data storage and data mining, the accumulated records of our federal bureaucracy are largely — and perhaps unsurprisingly — languishing in the early 20th century. Paperwork and filing cabinets still comprise the bulk of government records. President Obama would apparently like to change this, so this week he gave federal agencies four months to come up with a Web 2.0-inspired way to bring their records management systems online.
"With proper planning, technology can make these records less burdensome to manage and easier to use and share," Obama wrote.
Within four months, the heads of each federal agencies must submit a report to the federal archivist's office explaining how the agencies will improve their current records management processes. This extends to every type of electronic record — emails from citizens, social media connections, even cloud-based records storage. Four months after that deadline, the archivist and the director of the Office of Management and Budget have to come up with a game plan. They'll probably have to create some type of government-wide records management system, one that works across the entire bureaucracy and is more efficient than current filing methods.
The National Archives and Records Administration already stores 124 TB of data, the result of a 10-year digitization effort outsourced to Lockheed. But the program, like so many government programs, was plagued by cost overruns and delays. A newly focused effort will have to be more efficient.
The idea is to make federal records more accessible to the public at large, Obama said.
"Records transferred to NARA provide the prism through which future generations will understand and learn from our actions and decisions," Obama wrote. "When records are well-managed, agencies can use them to assess the impact of programs, to reduce redundant effort, to save money, and to share knowledge within and across their organizations. In these ways, proper records management is the backbone of open government."
Whether or not you believe Obama is a champion of said open government is another question.
For our part, we're wondering what this new federal database will look like. PDFs? How about Adobe InDesign files, which we totally love working with? "Maybe just a big Case Logic book filled with CD-ROMs, handcuffed to a secret service agent that never leaves the President's side," suggests co-contributor Clay. Sounds like a good place to start.
I didnt know that we were still storing data like 70 years ago. We should have digitalized every byte a decade ago.
what! now the government is going to tell me how and through what medium i can access public government records?!!
first health care and now this!
I am a staunch right wing conservative and i will never use computers or technology to access information...i will do it the american way...by chopping down a mighty redwood and making the paper myself to have info printed on it by an unpaid latino boy at the kinkos down by the jiffy lube.
what has this world come to.
(I am big stein. and i approve this message)(Vote Stewart-Colbert 2012!!)
It took President Clinton to get computers into the White House; I reckon it is going to take President Obama to get the records converted to digital. It would be nice if the GOP came on board and not stuck back two or three centuries in the past.
I actually sort of agree with this, finally the President is doing something productive. Though this does open more doors for data leaks, when you make an archive out of 1's and 0's it's a lot easier to steal and walk out of the building with information. Copying rather than stealing is worse, becuase nobody will notice that it's been compromised. Kind of a double-edged sword here
Obama's doing something good and right for a change? What's this world coming to? Oh ya, the digital age. I'm pretty sure the only reason why Clinton brought computers into the White House is 'cause that was when they started becoming ubiquitous. And it took Obama till the end of his term to do this; I'm think it's only to help bolster his quite horrid ratings to help him get re-elected. And Bush was an idiot for not doing this also.
@james you forget that before the Clinton administration computers weren't really effective at record keeping.
to mars or bust!