Many reporters rely on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request and receive access to information from the federal government. One reporter recently wrote about his experience requesting information from the State Department. After a long wait and finally getting a response, he learned that there is a backlog of requests because “the office lacks copy machines that can handle the volume required.” Astonishing, but not surprising to me.
With this knowledge in hand, here’s a rough idea of what the current process entails after an FOIA request has been received:
- State Department staff has to locate and retrieve the physical document or documents requested, hoping they have not been lost or misfiled
- Staff must make a copy of the documents when a machine is available
- After being copied, the documents are put into an envelope and mailed to the person who made the request
There has to be a better way to manage this process and fulfill these requests.
Streamline Document Delivery with Digitized Documents
The above scenario wouldn’t exist if the government’s, or any organization’s, documents were scanned, indexed and stored on secure document management software. If that was the case, the process would go like this:
- A document request is received and staff can search for the requested document directly from their computer, using a number of search values such as date, document title, document type, etc.
- Documents are retrieved electronically in seconds and emailed to the person who made the request
- The document management software tracks all activity showing who accessed the document(s), who it was emailed to and other actions taken, providing an audit trail
Efficiency & Cost Benefits
The advantages are clear – employees spend significantly less time searching, copying, and mailing documents, and the requested documents are delivered quickly and electronically. As an added benefit, management can set up security parameters to determine who has access to any document, what can be done with that document and easily track any action taken on a document.
Managing FOIA and other document requests this way also eliminates costs associated with copying and mailing documents such as copy paper, storage, ink, monthly leases, machine repairs and postage.