Without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges government it solutions have had to overcome in recent years is handling FOIA requests. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is the law which requires federal agencies to provide access to documents and information that is controlled by the United States government. The resulting monumental amount of paper documents has had an effect on the efficiency in which federal agencies can respond to their FOIA requests. The following graphic from The FOIA Website shows just how many requests have been made across all agencies in the past few years.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) faced this exact problem.
This mass of paper was taking up much needed physical space in HUD as well as proving to be extremely difficult and time consuming when it came to locating specific documents. To add to the constraints, HUD and its separate divisions did not have an easy way to share and collaborate on documents with each other or various other federal agencies under the existing system.
It became clear that HUD needed to digitize paper documents and implement a document management system for managing, storing and collaborating on documents. However, as a federal agency, HUD needed the system to be able to meet its specific needs to aid it in more efficiently handling FOIA requests. On this aspect, Armedia had three specific focus points for the new system:
- Provide a central system for managing case files
- Enable rich text based (i.e. full-text) and metadata (i.e. attribute) enterprise search solution.
- Ability to share and collaborate on documents from any location on any device including tablets like iPad
Providing a Central Location
Providing a central location in which organizations manage documents and case files is a task that is at the core of Armedia’s strengths in terms of capabilities. However, one aspect was particularly important for this specific project. After scanning millions of paper documents and storing them in a database, Armedia faced the task of migrating those files to the open source, cloud based Alfresco Enterprise Content Management system while automatically building a taxonomy based on the indexed information captured during the scanning process.
Using Armedia Caliente, a content migration product, Armedia was able to move HUD’s digitized documents and the indexed information captured in comma separated value (CSV) files into Alfresco while retaining the metadata tags (see picture below). The document’s metadata information was going to be vital to the success of the system later as this allows users at HUD to search for requested information under commonly listed categories such as name, date and location.
This centralized document management system provided HUD employees with the ability to search for documents across all case files without having to search within the different divisions. By providing the transfer of the original metadata, users can also search for documents using the same criteria they would have before.
Ability to Collaborate
The ability to collaborate and share documents with other federal agencies brought up a crucial factor in any situation dealing with government records: information security. Specifically, HUD needed to have the ability to protect individuals when documents were shared across agencies. To handle this task, Armedia integrated Daeja ViewONE Pro to allow users the ability to redact personally identifiable information before sharing across agencies or with the public. Once the redaction was burned into the document, it could be saved as a version in the Alfresco repository to keep the history of the case document.
HUD now has an extremely scalable and centralized case management system to manage its cases and the documents within them. Over three million pages of documents have been digitized and migrated into the new system. HUD Employees are able to share documents with other agencies and respond significantly faster to FOIA requests as a result of having the information at the tip of their fingers.
Click on the link for a full look at our U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Case Study