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Creating a Digital Future: The National Archives and Information Technology

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The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is actively embracing and experimenting with the opportunities of information technology to increase public access to the records of our government. NARA creates a digital future of increased government openness and transparency, of improved electronic records management, and of innovative ways to preserve and provide access to records. NARA focuses increased attention on practical IT solutions for improving Federal agency management of their electronic records from the point of creation. Our flagship Open Government initiative provides a greatly improved integrated search of all our holdings, including electronic and digitized records and catalog records for our physical holdings. The new web site and catalog integrate the power of social media to increase public engagement with the records of the past. NARA is creating a digital future through our Electronic Records Archives (ERA). We are using ERA to preserve and provide access to volumes of electronic records that we could not have absorbed before.

We are pleased that the White House has acknowledged NARA's role in the recently released report, Designing a Digital Future: Federally Funded Research and Development in Networking and Information Technology (December 2010). As called for in this report to the President and Congress, digital democracy can transform our society over the next decade or two. Government will be more responsive to and accountable because citizens can see and measure how it responds to requests and problems and can more fully participate in planning processes. All citizens will be able to make effective use of government data, thanks to breakthrough tools supporting access, analysis, and visualization for non-experts. Archivists, historians, journalists and the public will have better and more convenient access to government records, including information previously available only in paper form. Advancing this digital democracy vision, partnerships among the federal government, commercial sector, university libraries, and public archives are important to build and maintain the capacity to store critical data. The Open Government Initiative is opening data and documents at NARA and elsewhere, transforming the way the government does business and the way people interact with the government.

NARA will use the IT foundation we have laid with ERA, electronic records management, and improved online public access to build a digital future rooted in the records of the past.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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