The Pew Research Center recently published a report, “The Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future,” in which it found that 72 percent of experts agreed with the statement:
By 2020, innovative forms of online cooperation will result in significantly more efficient and responsive governments, business, non-profits, and other mainstream institutions.
That optimism agreed to by the experts indicates their belief that the internet will prompt institutional change, but is contrasted with the same experts’ concerns that:
Government agencies are cumbersome and resistant to change. The pace of progress towards openness and responsiveness will be slower than anyone would hope.
In my first few months on the job, I’ve seen some resistance to change, but that has been outmatched by what I see as a wellspring of enthusiasm for changes to our agency. One aspect of my job is to uncover and unleash talent across the agency. I am happy to say that I’ve already seen the passion of our staff and I know we can change our course and exceed expectations.
In this digital age, we have the opportunity to work and communicate more efficiently, effectively, and in completely new ways. This will require a change not only in our processes, but also in the culture of the National Archives and Records Administration. Working on the Open Government Plan (PDF) has helped us take our first steps. It’s an exciting time to be at helm, charting a new course for our agency.
Where exactly are we headed?
To begin with, we are going to reclaim our records management leadership role.
We risk losing our memory as a country if we cannot meet the challenges of electronic records management. The fact is, without good records management, it is impossible for us to learn from the past and plan for the future. This concern is deeply American. At the conclusion of the Continental Congress, the Massachusetts delegate, Rufus King, advised that the records of the proceedings either be destroyed or given to the President. He feared that if the records were scattered or corrupted by those with an interest to do so, they could be used to distort history and deceive future generations. He understood the vital importance of records management.
We understand that electronic records are now a fundamental part of our documentary record. We will work to find and develop cost-effective IT solutions needed to meet our electronic records challenges. We will bring together leaders in records management and information technology to collaborate on our most pressing issues. Toward that end, we are sponsoring the first combined meeting of the Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council and the Federal Records Council to discuss electronic records management issues. Additionally, we will explore incentives for rewarding agencies that best demonstrate improvement, innovation, and use of technology in their records management.
At the same time, we intend to vastly improve our online capabilities in order to foster the public’s use of our records. Included in this effort will be a redesign of Archives.gov, with streamlined search capabilities for the research section of our website. Further, we intend to explore ways to develop our current catalog into a social catalog that allows our online users to contribute information to descriptions of our records. And although we have developed a number of successful social media projects in the last year, we now need to develop a comprehensive social media strategy for the agency, which will include internal and external communication efforts using new media tools. In these efforts lie the seeds of change that will alter the course of our agency.
I expect the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration to change the way we do things, the way we think about things, and the way we deliver services to the public.
David S. Ferriero
Archivist of the United States (AOTUS)
For Further Information:
Visit our Open Government website at http://www.archives.gov/open/.
Pew Research Center report, “The Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future.” http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Impact-of-the-Internet-on-Institutions-in-the-Future.aspx