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Earlier this spring, Market Connections attended the Digital Government Institute (DGI) E-Discovery, Records and Information Management Conference and Expo to better understand the concerns surrounding mandates, requirements and solutions for the federal government and how contractors can support them.

E-discovery, Records & Information Management Conference

Courtesy of Digital Government Institute

Aimed predominantly at government employees, and sponsored by top industry contractors, discussions concentrated on current technology solutions and requirements, policy updates and changes, and examples of successful electronic records and e-discovery programs. This diverse grouping of experts led to rich discourses that highlighted the distinct perspectives of the government, contractor and legal realms.

One key challenge pervaded: As the volume of digital information continues to grow, the scope of electronic records management has expanded exponentially and is an increasingly critical issue for government agencies, particularly as it relates to providing secure storage, access and retrieval of government records.

A Government Perspective

Speakers from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) discussed their expectations for the Managing Government Records Directive 2019 deadline and 2022 NARA mandate, stating along the way that “NARA is getting out of the paper business after 2022.” They also covered details of each NARA deadline, as well as the Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI), and challenges faced in that area.

A panel consisting of speakers from Department of Justice and Department of Energy discussed maximizing Office 365 capabilities through vision development, planning, and preparation. Their presentation provided their agency visions for Office 365 including: agency information framework, business tools, governance plans, ERM strategy, and lessons learned so far. A notable and sobering surprise from this panel discussion was learning that some participants in the audience had never heard of Office 365.

Rounding out the federal perspective, an interesting panel of representatives from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) provided their front-line perspectives on the topic of controlled unclassified information (CUI). The CUI Program is an information security reform that standardizes the way the executive branch handles information that requires protection.

Industry Partners Showcase How They Can Support Agencies

Industry partners, including platinum sponsor Iron Mountain and gold sponsor Active Navigation, shared how they can support agencies with a wide array of capabilities to the event.

Iron Mountain shared their success in navigating digital transformation, providing examples of work Iron Mountain has done for multiple agencies. Broadening the dialog, they touched on the challenges faced by the federal government, including mandates and compliance, and digital transformation. They presented case studies, including specific examples, pertaining to digitizing hundreds of thousands of boxes from the Patent and Trademark Office, to the restoration and digitization of historical documents/artifacts for the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. [Learn how Market Connections has worked with Iron Mountain]

In addition, Active Navigation spoke about their case for auto-categorization (with relation to their software offering). They argued the accuracy and speed of machines over human categorization and noted that very few agencies are using machine learning in the records space. To further illustrate their point, Active Navigation anecdotally spoke of agencies still putting records in a box and asking a human to categorize them. This led to the question of how records managers can get IT’s attention to get the funding for such software. Their recommendation: the problem may need to be approached from an information governance perspective, in the interests of cyber hygiene.

Artificial Intelligence and E-Discovery Lead to Legal Questions & Concerns

The Honorable Marina Sabett, Associate Judge from the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County, provided a from the bench point of view regarding e-discovery (discovery in legal proceedings such as litigation, government investigations, or Freedom of Information Act requests, where information sought is in electronic formats). Furthermore, the question was raised, “How would a court handle a case where the government might pull records using AI?” Which in turned begged the question, “What exactly makes up the AI/machine learning algorithm, and what’s in ‘the black box’?”

Shelly Skinner, Special Ethics Counsel from the National Labor Relations Board, also spoke on the legal perspective of AI, social media, and ethics. Discussion centered around what can be used from social media as evidence in a case, and the importance in having attorneys advise their clients regarding social media behavior.

Final Thoughts

With technological advances (or lack thereof) in the government sphere, the very real potential for contractors to bring agency systems up to date, and with a third element covering the ethical and legal ramifications of AI’s growing deployment and sophistication, the event provided an informative and practical approach to records management that has the opportunity to serve the government community well in the years ahead.