Printing and retaining paper records in multiple locations based on outmoded interpretations of Federal Record keeping regulations and guidance where reliable electronic records are available and used generates significant wasted time and scarce resources. Paper files are created each day for all aspects of federal record keeping from human resources to budget and finance to contracts and agreements. The creation and
Printing and retaining paper records in multiple locations based on outmoded interpretations of Federal Record keeping regulations and guidance where reliable electronic records are available and used generates significant wasted time and scarce resources. Paper files are created each day for all aspects of federal record keeping from human resources to budget and finance to contracts and agreements. The creation and retention of paper-based files is either based on a misconception that applicable federal regulations require paper to be retained or on a failure of leadership to recognize and capitalize on technological advances in this area.
For example, all contract documents are created in word processing, spreadsheet, or other software applications and sent through e-mail to the intended recipient. Signatures, where required, are accomplished by printing the document, scanning it, and returning it to the sender or next signatory via e-mail. The wasted time it takes each individual in this process can be measured in increments of an hour each day, however, when multiplied the hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractor personnel involved every day the costs become substantial. Savings can be realized from reduced printing, mailing, paper and storage space and the associated maintenance costs of the equipment supporting these operations. The paper yoke limits the ability of entrenched bureaucracies from restructuring to respond to dynamic conditions and needs. The reduction in floor space for file rooms, file cabinets, and cubicle file drawers will enable savings through facilities consolidation, and will un-tether the federal workforce from the traditional office environment, facilitating mobile federal operations and a more agile federal workforce.
Adopting an electronic work environment increases the capacity of federal employees and others to quickly find and access electronic documents and information; dramatically improving the responsiveness of federal employees to the public we serve as well as executive and congressional leadership and staff. The electronic work environment will increase document security and enhance information sharing among federal employees and the interested public and reduce filing and search costs. Password protection at appropriate levels and audit logs provide greater information security for sensitive private or proprietary information, while increasing transparency of and access to public records. Increased transparency of federal records will increase the quality of federal records, because shoddy documentation could no longer be tucked-away in a dimly lit file room behind layers of security guards and key-card locks. Public visibility into federal records will increase the level of confidence the public has in our federal government.
The technology to electronically generate, route, and retain official documentation is sufficiently mature to eliminate this outmoded, wasteful practice. Collaborative Web 2.0 and cloud environments such as Facebook, WebEx, SharePoint, instant messaging, Skype, and countless others render traditional bureaucratic processes obsolete, woefully inefficient, and in the end extremely frustrating to the public served.
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