President James Madison once said: A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both. It expresses well the primary reason for the creation of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and the essential mission of the Government Printing Office (GPO): Keeping America Informed.There is a long tradition in the depository libraries and at GPO of providing public access to authentic government information and to preserving that information for future use. However, the rapid evolution of the Internet and the revolution it has brought to information access and dissemination is changing how we accomplish that mission now and will change it even more dramatically in the future.GPO places an extremely high priority on assuring that the information we provide to the public directly and through the FDLP is authentic, and can be determined to be authentic, now and in the future. We are pursuing a combination of digital signatures and watermarks to ensure the authenticity of government information that is produced by the federal government and disseminated by GPO. We are also studying the techniques for data tagging, storage and migration that are most likely to ensure that future generations can access and use the content that we create and disseminate today.GPO recognizes that providing permanent public access to electronic government publications is a significant commitment and one that will require us to replace the platforms and refresh the data periodically. The risk, of course, is that we don't know the characteristics of the hardware, operating systems and data structures that will be in use in five or ten years, let alone those that will be in use in fifty or one hundred years. GPO is meeting with technology leaders in industry and academia on a regular basis to look as far over the horizon as we can in order to make good decisions and anticipate future changes. We believe that the use of XML tagged data provides our best hope for migration of current information forward, but we continue to look at other options as well.At the same time, GPO is actively engaged in initiatives to expand our partnership with the depository library community to preserve more than 2.2 million paper documents in the library collections and to digitize those publications for both preservation and improved public access.
Judith C. Russell, "Preservation and Authentication of Government Information: Are We Ready for the 21st Century?" in Proc. IS&T Archiving 2004, 2004, pp 77 - 81, https://doi.org/10.2352/issn.2168-3204.2004.1.1.art00018