Sunshine Week Shines a Light on Transparency in Government
*this post has been updated
Sunshine Week (March 14-20) shines a light on American access to public information and government transparency, marked by speeches, workshops, introducing legislation and news coverage nationwide.
The purpose of Sunshine Week is to protect democracy by ensuring an open, transparent government based on open records laws. Most public agencies seek to comply with open records requests, but they struggle for adequate funding for resources — whether that's more staff, updated technology or both.
Electronic records had already complicated this operation. Then the pandemic happened. Office conversations are now conducted over text messages, instant messages, social media and collaboration tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, on agency-issued and personal devices. Working from home has blurred the lines between personal and work communications, causing potential security and legal issues if conversations are being carried out on unauthorized devices or applications.
Manage personal devices
By creating a plan for personal devices that targets official government messages regardless of device or channel, you’re not only ensuring that these communications are captured and archived, but you’re also giving your employees the freedom to work when, where and how they prefer — and saving significant money in the process.
Simplify communications archiving
Most cities and states still struggle to collect these kinds of electronic records, let alone search and retrieve them from a central place. In fact, many clerks rely on manual systems to search for records and convert them into a format that can be reviewed and produced. In the worst-case scenario, clerks request emails from all users, print out those emails, send them to the legal team for review and then fax those emails to the requester — an incredibly inefficient undertaking.
A better option is to search within one application that automatically collects and stores comprehensive electronic communications from multiple channels and devices. A process that once took days or weeks can now take under a minute.
Discovering a public records gap only after you’ve failed to turn up complete records opens your agency up to litigation, reputational damage and growing community distrust.
Comply with Sunshine Laws
Are you up to speed on your state’s public records laws? Smarsh has created a map with the relevant definitions and outlines of records, meetings and litigation disclosures for all 50 states. If you’re not familiar with your state’s requirements or you need a refresher, take a look here.
Secure public records
Given the proliferation of digital communications channels, and with more workforces operating remotely, the scope of electronic records that public agencies need to protect is broader than ever. We've prepared a guide that outlines what communications data governments should be securely collecting and preserving, how to evalute your current archiving technology and capabilities, and which security features are critical for an efficient and effective public records management program. Download the guide here.
A functioning democracy depends on having an informed, educated citizenry and an open, transparent government. Technology enables transparency today by making it easier and less time-consuming for officials to respond to records requests.
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