Federal Computer Week has an interesting article about the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that describes the challenges of the agency's task of preserving records in a digital age. NARA has always been responsible for preserving all correspondence and publications. That was a rather simple task when all business was conducted on paper. The agency catalogs and maintains vast warehouses of government documents, protecting the public record — a linchpin of democracy — for future generations.
However, who uses paper any more?
Most government correspondence is now conducted by e-mail and publications typically appear as PDF files. The tools of the trade that have served NARA for so long are no longer sufficient. With much of the business of government conducted online, NARA must transform itself by developing new tools, techniques and policies for ensuring that electronic records are searchable and accessible, not just now but for years to come.
You can read this story at http://fcw.com/articles/2009/09/14/nara-era-dig-out-of-digital-records-avalanche.aspx.