Solving the search problem for large-scale repositories

New automation approaches solve common agency problems in the move from paper to digital.

Government is drowning in paper and, more frequently, in scanned images of paper. With agencies receiving hundreds of thousands of new documents each year – which can sometimes range to thousands of pages – the content easily gets lost in unsearchable repositories, and staffers struggle to find the right document in a massive document databases.

Solutions exist to help these agencies organize and structure the documents, often by converting images and scanned documents to Extensible Markup Language (XML), which provides for sophisticated search, verification, document review and “printing” to a variety of devices. However, traditional conversion methods require significant manual effort and are economically unfeasible, especially when agencies are often precluded from using offshore labor. Additionally, government conversion efforts can be restricted by  document security and the number of people that require access.

However, there have been recent advances in the technology that allow for fully automated, secure and scalable document conversion processes that make economically feasible what was considered impractical just a few years ago. In one particular case the cost of the automated process was less than one-tenth of the traditional process.

Making content searchable, allowing for content to be reformatted and reorganized as needed, gives agencies tremendous opportunities to automate and improve processes, while at the same time improving workflow and providing previously unavailable metrics. To achieve the benefits of conversion, though, these new processes need to be designed to mitigate a number of complicating factors:

Lack of control on input: Source data is often represented by numerous distinct document types with few formatting requirements.

Need for accuracy: Typical optical character recognition (OCR) engines average about 97 percent accuracy, new techniques have driven accuracy to over 99.5 percent.

Non-textual elements: Scientific and technical documents contain extensive non-text elements, such as mathematical formulas, complex tables, charts and illustrations, all of which hamper OCR accuracy.

Specialized delivery needs: Agencies may have particular requirements, XML and others, to suit specific needs.

Security: Systems need to comply with strict government privacy and security regulations.

Scalability: Although the initial intent may be to start small, with success the requirement can quickly ramp up, and millions of pages should be processed per month. Systems need to be designed to accommodate growth.

The key to the conversion challenge is developing a process that allows sufficient data can be extracted from a document without human review. For example, the solution might need to focus on automatically removing “noise” from the images so that the OCR engine operates at peak accuracy. Such a solution requires software to automate the image detection and extraction processes. With that completed, the solution converts accurately scanned text to well-formed XML, applying the metadata required to deliver fully searchable and retrievable text.

Expertise is needed to tune the implemented solution to the XML requirements of a specific agency. That includes tailoring conversion systems to match the tagging requirements of the selected XML schemas and developing the stylesheets that can recreate original documents for viewing purposes. Additionally the solution should provide appropriate meta tags for storage and access via content management systems or front-end applications. Processes can be designed to run 24/7, where the agency and vendor both monitor production flow and perform quality checks.

End-to-end solutions should allow for continuous improvement, and the implementation should focus on using increasing sample sizes to continually refine the software to recognize and accept reasonable variations requiring post-processing to XML. 

In designing solutions for federal agencies with vast document repositories, IT staff should look for flexibility – in design, workflows and compliance with changing requirements. Conversion of documents into searchable text with relevant and accurate metadata, and the capacity to render output that matches the original or can be consumed in multiple formats requires more than even the best OCR engine can accomplish. Here are some high-level criteria to consider when searching for a provider:

  • Variety and complexity of the source data.
  • Variety and complexity of outputs (e.g., formats, styling requirements, component reuse).
  • Anticipated volumes and level of automation required.
  • Metadata requirements for post-processed content.
  • Standards and requirements for schemas and outputs.
  • Needs and requirements for identifying and processing exceptions manually.
  • Integration requirements, particularly with OCR or scan systems.

The key takeaway is that technology has developed significantly in the past few years, and automated processes that were infeasible just a few years ago now can provide a solution to dealing with the terabytes of data that all government agencies are collecting.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.