Report: GPO, federal government need digital info management strategy

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While the mission of the Government Printing Office remains valid, the GPO needs to "reboot" for the digital age, says a report (.pdf) by a panel of the National Academy of Public Administration.

The report finds that the 152-year old agency faces challenges in dealing with the decline of print and rise of digital publishing, including critical matters such as publishing formats, metadata, authentication, cataloging, dissemination, preservation, public access, and disposition. Publisher of both print and digital editions of the Congressional Record and Federal Register, the GPO also manages the Federal Depository Library Program and provides digital access to federal information through the Federal Digital System.

Many important government documents are not being authenticated or preserved for the future, and the public cannot easily access them, the report says. To remedy the situation, the panel believes that the federal government needs to establish a broad governmentwide strategy to manage digital information through all stages of its lifecycle that streamlines processes, clearly defines agency responsibilities, and avoids duplication and waste.

"The absence of such a strategy has resulted in a chaotic environment with significant implications for public access to government information—and, therefore, the democratic process—with some observers describing federal digital publishing as the 'wild west,'" states the report. 

In total, the panel makes 15 recommendations for strengthening the GPO's business model. Among them is that the GPO offer an expanded set of services on a cost-recovery basis that contribute to the lifecycle management of government information. These services could include content management, metadata creation, authentication, preservation, and cataloging, the panel states. 

The report also recommends that the GPO work with depository libraries and other library groups to develop a comprehensive plan for preserving the print collection of government documents. This plan should include cataloging, digitizing, and preserving tangible copies of government publications, a timeline for completion, and options for supporting the effort financially, as well as a process for ingesting digitized copies into the Federal Digital System, according to the panel.

Congress should appropriate funds for the purpose of cataloging, digitizing, and preserving the government collection, the report states, and the GPO and Congress should explore alternative funding models for the Federal Digital System in order to ensure a stable and sufficient funding source. 

For more:
-download the panel's report (.pdf) 

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