(2022) Why is Records Management Important in Government?

Records management systems are crucial to ensuring an effective, agile local government in the digital age. This process of replacing physical records with electronic data is an important aspect of a local or national government’s digital transformation strategy.

Records management systems are crucial to ensuring an effective, agile local government in the digital age. This process of replacing physical records with electronic data is an important aspect of a local or national government’s digital transformation strategy. 

In 2018, the US Government mandated that all federal departments switch to digital records by 2022. Despite this, many public sector organizations, especially at the local or state level, have been slow to abandon paper records. 

What are digital government records? Why is records management so important in local and state government? What are the best practices for ensuring effective and efficient maintenance of records?

Here at Town Web, we believe that every local government or municipality should have a strong online presence and a great digital strategy - and records management is integral to this. 

In this article, we’ll explore all you’ll need to know about electronic records management in government. 

What are Digital Government Records? 

Local government is at its most effective when its records are reliable, up-to-date and easily accessible. But, what do we mean by government records? How do we digitize these records? 

By government records, we mean any information recorded by a government during its day-to-day operations. This is simply the data created through governance.

 These include: 

They are evidence of the hard work local governments do by recording their achievements and impacts. Records can be accessed years, even decades, later so that residents and future governments can measure the impact of work happening in the present. 

Why Do We Keep Government Records?

Why is it so important to keep and manage government records?

Adequately maintained records help ensure: 

Records can be used to judge the effectiveness of governance and track the progress of the city or county. Ultimately, record management gives stakeholders a more informed view of the health of the local government.  

Benefits of Electronic Record Management: “Going Paperless”

As previously mentioned, the US Government has already begun its “Digital by Default” strategy and expects all federal agencies to transition to digital records by the end of 2022 - and for good reason. 

The federal government is pushing this transformation confidently. In fact, local governments can turn to the federal coffers to help with their digital strategy and apply for ARPA funds

Why should local governments and agencies turn to electronic record management?

Handling Volume of Data & Unlocking Automation

Modern, effective governments produce lots of data in their daily activities. Think of the thousands of emails, for instance, that are sent each day between clerks, offices, citizens, partners etc. Each meeting or policy launch will require new records.

Back catalogs of records from years ago would need to be regularly maintained in accordance with archiving policies - and by hand! Creating, handling and maintaining paper records is an incredibly labor-intensive process.

By switching to electronic records and digitizing archived data, clerks can:

Instant Access to Information

Digital files can be pulled and sent to whoever needs access instantly. All it takes is searching the relevant tags and retrieving the file. This speeds up the transfer and availability of information throughout the government body. 

No more making requests from archives to find the information needed. Electronic government records can be accessed anywhere - from any device and from any location. 

This instant access makes fulfilling freedom of information requests quick & easy and improves the transparency into operations for governors, residents and elected officials - ensuring governance that works for the community. 

Saves Lots of Money

In local government, budgets are tight and taxpayers want to know their money is being spent wisely. Many public bodies put off a digital transformation as they’re averse to making the initial investment to develop electronic record management systems and start digitizing files. 

However, the ROI of digital record workflows is immense - both as cost savings and in public value (as we’ll discuss later on).

Let’s talk about cost savings: 

Improve Public Welfare

We’ve established above that digital records improve the efficiency of government bodies. Speeding up processes, allowing decision-makers to make more informed calls, and having accessible data to draw on will result in more effective governance. This has a direct impact on people’s lives. 

In New South Wales, Australia, the poor use of data had led to a steady decline in the effectiveness of the state’s service delivery for child protection - as EY explains. 

The State invested heavily into unlocking data, replacing 14 legacy systems and physical records with a single cloud-based platform to better integrate the child protection records into the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS)’s processes. 

By having a holistic view of every child in care, child protection officers were able to make more appropriate calls on care arrangements, carry out more effective interventions, and provide more support to struggling families. 

Local governments and municipalities can also do their part in improving access to information through digitization. For instance, the City of Colts Neck updated their website to allow citizens to easily access documentation and details of town events, meetings, rules, regulations and forms.

The Security Challenges of Government Record Management

A government record management system doesn’t come without its concerns - as is the case with any digital process. 

The main concern here is security. Cloud-based, electronic record systems can be susceptible to cybercriminals. Many public institutions fail to implement the necessary security infrastructure to protect from data breaches - and the consequences can be devastating.

Government record systems will take a holistic security approach, including:

Digital transformation in government requires a strong security team to guide the transition safely. 

Out of the strategies above, we consider access protection to be the most immediate. For instance, if anyone within the government (from low-level staffers and unrelated departments) could access every digital record, this represents a huge security risk. 

Insider threats are more common than you think - especially for public bodies. That’s why governments need to tightly control who can access what. Clerks should only be able to retrieve the information they need to avoid data leaks. 

This level of access protection is inherent in physical record storage. Only certain staff can swipe into archives and requests will need to be made. Line managers usually need to permit someone to visit archives. These same principles must translate digitally.

Kickstart your Digital Transformation strategy with a beautiful website by Town Web

One of the first steps of adopting a “digital by default” strategy and modernizing your local government is by updating your website to meet the demands of the modern era. 

Increasingly, residents are turning to the internet to access important government services. To ensure users get the support and service they need, you’ll need a functional & intuitive website. 

We have over 14 years of experience in designing websites for local governments. Get in touch with us today to see how our expert designers can help you improve your local government’s online presence and deliver a website your residents will love using.

Town Web services are approved for use with ARPA funds!