Records management: What governments should be prioritizing
Governments around the world are now grappling with aging technology infrastructures and the prospect of growing volumes of information that must be stored, archived and - in some instances - destroyed. However, as a recent ZDNet report pointed out, this may not be where public decision-makers' priorities lie.
According to ZDNet Australia's Suzanne Tindal, the state auditor-general for Victoria recently conducted an investigation of the Victorian Department of Human Services (DHS) and found that a new records management policy and solution are desperately needed. But, as far as Tindal sees it, the government's focus lies somewhere else given the poor state of affairs for records storage.
"Not only is the department completely failing to fulfil freedom of information (FOI) requests, which was the topic of the audit, but it's also likely losing hours of staff time as employees comb through its records for the information they need to do their jobs," Tindal wrote.
Recognizing its problem, Victoria's DHS requested more than $8.1 million to establish a new records management system and $448,00 annually to maintain information processes. But the request was denied, according to Tindal.
The time has come, she asserted, that governments begin recognizing the need for and importance of appropriate records management platforms, practices and policies. At the DHS, she said, boxes of "record indexes with cards sticking out in all directions in a higgledy-piggledy manner" the norm for records management.
Perhaps with a different view of the process, the DHS could get its records in line - some of which date back 150 years, Tindal said - and begin to adhere to basic commitments, such as the requirement to respond to FOI requests within 45 days. Currently, according to the report, the after request for information takes 75 days because of the difficulty in locating information.
By the DHS' own estimation, about 90 percent of the files it produces are not covered under the current records management system.
As is the case with private-sector companies around the world, public organizations are being overwhelmed with information. Whether the information is electronic or still on paper form, it is leading to headaches and issues of storage and security.
In the United States, the Obama administration attempted to change the federal government's thinking about records management by issuing memo that now requires organizations to take a holistic approach to digital information.