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Electronic Records Program 1994-1995 Report

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The State of Wisconsin is in a period of technological change. State agencies, local governments, the courts, and the Legislature increasingly are embracing computer technology to meet mandates more efficiently. Further evidence of this transition is the focus in the 1995-96 budget on using information technology to improve efficiency and reduce costs and the 1995 Executive Order establishing an enterprise-wide approach to information technology.

During this time of change it has become apparent that new technology also poses serious challenges to documenting the evidence of state government work and decisions. The State can no longer assume that it will be able to access important information and records that have simply been stored for a decade or more. The need for special hardware, software, and descriptive documentation to retrieve and understand electronic information and records requires advanced planning and constant attention. Failure to provide this produces electronic data that will be inaccessible and unreadable in the near future.

The Electronic Records Program was established at the State Archives to investigate the issues of preserving electronic records with historical value. In order to accomplish that mandate, the State Archives must address the ongoing management of the electronic systems, not just preservation of electronic information and records. The State Archives believes that the most fundamental issue for ensuring that electronic information and records are properly preserved is to ensure that electronic data is properly managed while in the custody of the creating agency. If a state agency can ensure accessibility and readability of all data for which it is responsible, the state's historical record has a better chance of surviving.

This report will provide background information on the program staff's accomplishments in working with state agencies to manage their electronic records and describe program staff's accomplishments in managing the electronic records held by the State Archives. Both of these accomplishments have allowed staff to identify a number of issues which are outlined at the end of the report.

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