Pandemic drives up public records request volumes while growing complexity impacts processing time says new GovQA PiPRIndex data.
WOODRIDGE, Ill. – The unprecedented events of 2020 such as the pandemic and civil unrest are increasing the volume of public records requests and are sending processing times soaring because of the complexity of audio, video and other large files. That’s according to the first quarter 2021 Peers in Public Records (PiPR) Index from GovQA, the only index that tracks state and local public records trends.
“Agencies are receiving requests for COVID data and information about crisis planning and processes, and the types of requests are becoming more complex for health departments, law enforcement/public safety agencies, and others,” said Jennifer Snyder, chief evangelist at GovQA. “In addition, the scramble to remote work during the pandemic led to inaccessible non-digitized records, increasing time to release.”
The first quarter 2021 Index shows public records request volumes increased by 35% in the past year, with the total time an average agency spends processing requests skyrocketing by 286% in the same time period. Particularly notable were increases in file size, up 25% in the past quarter and 333% since the Index launched in 2018–mainly due to growing demand for larger files such as audio and video data. These trends are just some of the data points that make up the PiPRIndex’s quarterly measure of complexity.
“The trends identified in the PiPRIndex can help state and local government agency leadership make decisions regarding budgeting, staffing levels, and technology investments, especially as they document the business case for using American Rescue Plan Act funds for new records management technologies,” said Snyder.
How the PiPRIndex Works
GovQA is the leading provider of cloud-based automated workflow (SaaS) software for governments and is singularly positioned to provide actionable data for the public records industry. The company serves over 110 of the largest 300 U.S. cities, 45 percent of top U.S. counties, and more than 80 state agencies.
To create the PiPRIndex, GovQA identified approximately 240 member agencies representing the most common records request experiences across the nation. Member organizations include 25% state agencies, 20% counties, and 55% cities. The PiPRIndex quantifies changes in complexity of public records from “peers” across the U.S. on a quarterly basis and is adjusted for volume.
GovQA’s PiPRIndex tracks two dimensions of complexity: records and activities. Records complexity includes elements such as the quantity and size of response documents or files, and the type of file, with special focus on video and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) files. Activities complexity includes markers for average user interactions, clarification emails and total time spent to complete a record request.
Records Complexity and Volume are Growing
Government agencies have been facing steady growth in the complexity of public records requests, even prior to the events of 2020, according to the PiPRIndex. As the public becomes more aware of the availability and usefulness of public records, new requesters are entering the system at a higher rate than ever before. Requests range from emails and texts to video from dash, body-worn and 24/7 stationary cameras.
“Given the increased awareness of public records accessibility, the media gathering data for 24-hour news cycles, and the increase in successful litigation in compliance lawsuits, this complexity trend is likely to continue,” said Snyder.
Agencies needing assistance with securing ARPA funding to help solve the challenges of public records complexity exacerbated by the events of 2020 are encouraged to sign up for GovQA’s eCourse series, ARPA Implications for Public Records on GovQA’s ARPA Funding Hub where visitors can also access funding request letter and email templates.
GovQA is the leading provider of cloud-based SaaS automated workflow solutions for government compliance. Customers use our software to more easily process and manage public records and information requests from citizens, the media, and other government offices. With 20 years’ experience in advanced technology for government agencies, GovQA combines trusted tools and security, proven government expertise, and a scalable platform that enables cities, counties, and state agencies to securely collect and control time-sensitive information within, across, and outside governments. GovQA’s proprietary Peers in Public Records (PiPR) Index is the only index that tracks trends in public records for state and local governments. GovQA is headquartered outside of Chicago with coverage across the United States. Visit www.govqa.com for more information.
Patrick McLaughlin, Markit Strategies & PR for GovQA