Two high-tech firms are competing for a contract at the National Archives to create a system that will capture vast amounts of electronic information, preserve it forever and make it accessible at any time, from any place. If all goes as planned, the system is to be up and running in 2011.
Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, MD, and Harris of Melbourne, FL, will get one-year design contracts worth about $10 million each, according to the Associated Press. Spin-offs from the winning system, including private sales, could be worth hundreds of millions more.
The National Archives and the Library of Congress have special shops that struggle to maintain obsolete equipment for reading records. The pace of obsolescence has increased and digital records are being lost every day.
John W. Carlin, archivist of the United States, pointed out that military records, including the design of weapons and the personnel records of hundreds of thousands of veterans are kept digitally, on systems that could decay. He noted that the government’s Department of Health and Human Services is devising a nationwide system of medical records that must be kept electronically.
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