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I’ve just read an article in the May edition of the NZ CIO magazine.
The article describes a problem where 74% of the local public sector organisations admitted to holding some digital information they can no longer access”. This is incredible!
This means that out of every 100 pieces of digital information that they are holding, they can only use 26 of them! Why? Because they do not have a defined method for retaining and storing their digital information.
Archives New Zealand (a government organisation that is the “official guardian of New Zealand’s public archives) have been tasked with creating a digital continuity strategy. This will ensure that valuable information is preserved and migrated when necessary to the latest formats and media, appropriate metadata is attached, and documents that are no longer relevant are securely deleted.
Wow – that is precisely the way that they can improve the “findability” of digital information. Metadata that describes the information (whether it be film, document, etc) is essential.’
However, further to that, there are a couple of other very important things to take into consideration. One is the “vocabulary”. Do all departments/organisations speak the same language? All the various departments involved need to ensure that they use a common vocabulary when describing something. Otherwise, there will still be a very large documents that are “unable to be accessed”.
Another thing that is very important is “buy in”. With many different departments, it is important that they all agree to the above-mentioned strategies. Having only 2 out of every 10 organisations following the new strategy means that there is still a lot of information that can’t be found.
Fortunately Archives NZ has addressed these extra points of consideration. They have drawn up a Digital Continuity Action Plan. The focus of the plan in the first year is to raise awareness and understanding of the problem. Excellent! Communication and awareness are critical for success.
Part of this communication process will involve “refining the language used”. This will be done by looking at which words are used by CIOs, technology managers, record keepers and so on.
I am very keen to see how this initiative transpires. I’ll be watching with interest, and if I see anything of note, I will let you know.