State and local agencies struggle with e-records

The biggest struggle for state and local government efforts in complying with regulations is handling of electronic information, according to data from a soon-to-be-published survey.

Paper is a lot easier to manage, states a study conducted by the Association for Information and Image Management, an international authority on enterprise content management. More than 700 organizations, including 128 state and local government agencies, report a fairly high level of confidence with their oversight of paper-based information.

The full survey, “Compliance: It's Real, It's Relevant and It's More Than Just Records,” will be released Aug. 15.

When state and local agencies were asked to describe their retention practices for paper records, about 92 percent reported that paper financial invoices were at least somewhat under control, if not completely under control. The governments also said they had good measures for filing contracts in print format; nearly 89 percent said the situation was at least somewhat under control. Compliance for printed correspondence was at least somewhat under control at 82 percent of the agencies surveyed.

However, the numbers show agencies are not as organized when it comes to complying with the rules for electronic information. Only a quarter of respondents felt information recorded on personal digital assistants, cell phones and other portable devices was at least somewhat under control.

State and local agencies are more focused on protecting data on Web sites and home computers, the poll shows. More than 70 percent reported that the information posted on their Web sites at least somewhat met compliance regulations. More than 60 percent felt they had at least somewhat met compliance rules for information accessed from home computers.

When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “Content created by employees who leave our organization is actively reviewed and archived appropriately,” more than half of respondents strongly disagreed.

Perhaps part of the overarching problem is that government employees generally do not know which electronic information needs to be saved. Asked whether they agree that people in the organization understand the difference between e-records and e-information, only 2 percent strongly agreed, while more than 50 percent strongly disagreed.

Such e-compliance issues are not close to being resolved, according to the survey. Most state and local respondents felt compliance concerns related to managing e-records are here to stay.

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