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States step up to the electronic challenge

"It could have a big impact," Horton says, "if we can demonstrate a working model and show agencies a way to move forward, rather than asking them to do something that will cost them money and probably have a negative impact on their workflow."

If the project could demonstrate something that meets agency needs and doesn’t just represent an additional burden, Horton says, "it could show them a direction to move in, and as they make technology decisions and re-engineer their systems, they can have an archiving solution in mind."

Digitizing county documents

Like state agencies, city and county governments are learning to cope with electronically stored information and e-discovery issues. Six years ago, Montgomery County, Md., began the process of digitizing all its information to make it easily searchable.

"There were still a lot of physical documents, and the only way to manage and search them would be to digitize," says Mayland Lin, core systems manager for the county, which has 9,000 employees. Montgomery County uses the ZyIMAGE document imaging system from vendor ZyLAB.

Anything that comes in on physical paper has to be scanned into the system, Lin adds. Things that come in as attachments to e-mail or are born in digital format can be automatically uploaded to the system. Users can then do robust searches by key word or Boolean searches. "We have 30 departments now adding 330 different types of records to the system," she says.

The county attorney’s office recently found its e-discovery policy was outdated, so the county hired a consultant to go one by one through each department to educate them on record keeping and retention, and make sure they are following the state of Maryland’s rules.

"So gradually each department is establishing a life cycle management system for documents," Lin says.

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