Public sector IT managers are under pressure to ensure that their IT systems can deal with requests for information under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, which comes into force next year.
Under the legislation, from January 2005 public sector bodies will have 20 working days to respond to requests for information from the public.
This will mean organisations must be able to locate any relevant information they hold, and report their findings quickly.
Failure to do so could result in charges of contempt of court.
The Act requires public authorities to introduce a robust system of record management, said Rosemary Jay, partner in the IT department of law firm Masons.
"IT systems will have to make sure they have an integrated approach to managing data," she said.
Local authorities have had four years to prepare for FOI compliance so will be expected to be able to meet the 20 working day time limit, said Graham Smith, deputy information commissioner.
"There's been a long lead-in time so we expect record management issues will have been thought through," he added.
The Information Commission will oversee the implementation of the Act.
Part of the problem when dealing with requests is locating where information is held, said Mike Stone, chief executive of BT OpenAccess.
Content management systems can help IT managers develop procedures for dealing with requests through searching emails and databases for relevant records, said Stone.
"This will help introduce processes that can then be extended to paper-based searches," he added.
BT has launched software, called Case Manager, to help firms process requests for information.
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