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Mass. Law Supports Document Conversion to Digital Format for Enhanced
Access to Government Records
The Massachusetts legis...
need to take photocopies or printouts, bringing down the cost of access. The other
advantages of converting paper document...
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Mass. Law Supports Document Conversion to Digital Format for Enhanced Access to Government Records

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Massachusetts law makers have proposed changes to allow easier, affordable, and quicker access to government records through document conversion from paper to digital format.

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Mass. Law Supports Document Conversion to Digital Format for Enhanced Access to Government Records

  1. 1. Mass. Law Supports Document Conversion to Digital Format for Enhanced Access to Government Records The Massachusetts legislature is looking to make public access to government records easier and more affordable. In October 2013, the state’s lawmakers proposed a series of bills that support conversion of public records in paper format to digital. Electronic document conversion of government records will allow people to access them at the push of a button. This is expected to solve the problems such as delayed response and outdated fee structure and also improve the government transparency. The lawmakers strongly believe that digital access can eliminate the costly and time-consuming paper chase online. Problems with Massachusetts Public Records Laws According to Mass. Rep. Antonio Cabral, the Massachusetts public records laws have not been updated or reformed for several decades. He says that the current system on maintaining public records and granting access to them are similar to “19thcentury legal structures”. As a result, it is quite difficult to navigate or access public record information. There is no uniformity in the system and records can be accessed in different ways costs of access may differ too, based on the need, the agency and the department. Moreover, it is costly to take photocopies or computer printouts of public records at times of need. Photocopies could cost up to 20 cents per page and computer printouts, 50 cents. All these issues make it difficult for the media, citizens and others who have the right to access the public information, with mounting delays and expenses to retrieve the information they need. Democratic principles are also at stake as the public has right to know how the government is working and the paper records system inhibits transparency. Legislation to support digitization was the response to the complaints from the media about high costs and time delays in acquiring government information. Though the specified deadline is 10 days, the average wait time after making a request for public record is 34 days as of 2011. How Electronic Document Conversion Resolve these Issues Once the paper documents are converted into electronic format, people can download and get whatever information they want. As this will provide a clear way to access public records, there would be no delay in the release of information except in the event of system breakdown. Digital access to public records will also avoid the
  2. 2. need to take photocopies or printouts, bringing down the cost of access. The other advantages of converting paper documents to digital format are:  Eliminates the need for extensive physical storage space  Avoids the need to submit formal requests for retrieving public information  Improves transparency of the government so that citizens can stay informed about the decisions being made on their money and in the name of the electorate In essence, electronic document conversion provides easy navigation, reduces the delay in response time, saves money and thereby increases the public access to state records. However, the proposed bill does not include confidential criminal justice records. It defines only the administrative court office documents such as records from probation department and the chief justice for administration and management as public records.

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