E-readiness

Duranti and Preston (2008), who were involved in the InterPARES 2 research into electronic records creation and use, stated that the context under which records creators operate today is collaborative and records creation is therefore distributed. This environment requires the maintenance of reliable and authentic records. Information systems need to be trustworthy to enhance public trust and the public bodies’ accountability (Duranti & Preston, 2008). The effective management of electronic records amidst e-Government development requires e-readiness which has been defined by Lipchak and McDonald (2003, p. 1) as, “the capacity to create, manage, share, and use electronic information (and related technology) to improve governance as well as sustain international trade and innovation; improve global security and support other activities in our increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.” The e-Government development environment requires an information infrastructure that should facilitate the effective capture of records as information of evidence. However, despite technological advancements, the management of records still poses challenges (Svard, 2014).

Cunningham (2011) investigated Australian government agencies and confirmed that they are still lagging when it comes to the management of digital records. This is a surprise since Australia is at the cutting edge when it comes to the development of international standards in the records management field. Sweden is one of the leading countries in e-Government development but research that was conducted by Svard (2014) in some of its municipalities revealed that the management of information is still a challenge and many government agencies still lack electronic archives (Riksarkivet, n.d.). Technological developments have resulted in sophisticated tools that are used by organizational employees. Where there is no information governance, public records end up in personal systems which puts the information under the control of individuals (Svard, 2014; The National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council, 2004).

Therefore, lack of e-readiness complicates the management of digital records as evidence and hence loss of rights. It poses the following challenges:

  • • lack of accountability for the management of e-records (who is responsible for protecting their integrity and authenticity?);
  • • complex, fragmented, and incompatible information systems and standards (e.g., computer systems and metadata standards);
  • • fragile, quickly changing record media, formats, and storage systems (the e-preservation challenge);
  • • unconnected or poorly integrated paper and electronic records and duplicated e-records (where is the complete file, the right version?);
  • • the lack of e-records skills (among both users and information managers); and
  • • limited collaboration among information professions (records managers, archivists, librarians, IT specialists, web content managers, etc.) (Lipchak & McDonald, 2003).

Lipchak and McDonald (2003) were further of the view that e-readiness requires organizational employees who are aware of the value of records, effective laws, policies to guide records management, governance, and accountability arrangements that provide organization and leadership for records management programs, the management of the records continuum, collaboration among all professions in the information management domain, training of staff and cost-effective computer systems. Their views were also supported by Mnjama and Wamukoya (2007) who carried out a literature review on ICT, records management, and e-governance, and argued that in order for a country to assess whether it is ready to manage e-records, it has to examine the legal and regulatory framework, the physical infrastructure, procedures for collecting, processing, storing and disseminating e-records, staffing and training levels, long-term preservation, and the accessibility of the records. They concluded that even though many governments have tools and procedures for managing paper records, electronic records, and digital images management is still lacking. To demonstrate the necessity of e-readiness amidst e-government development, Lowry’s (2013) study that he carried out in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania confirmed that even though the three governments were engaging ICTs to create digital working environments, the records management systems were still very weak. The e-records infrastructure should constitute the following:

  • • wide awareness of the value of records by political leaders, public servants, citizens and NGOs;
  • • effective laws and policies to guide information management, such as, “Public Records” laws, archival legislation, access and privacy laws, policies on documenting business activities and decisions, etc.;
  • • governance and accountability arrangements that provide organization and leadership for records management programs, assign responsibility and encourage close collaboration among records managers, archivists, librarians, program managers, information technology specialists, etc.;
  • • consistent and effective standards and practices for life-cycle records management processes such as creating, organizing, classifying, storing, protecting, retrieving, retaining, destroying, and archiving electronic and paper records;
  • • trained staff including all civil servants and information managers who are positioned to influence and guide change;
  • • cost-effective computer-based systems, applications, etc. to create, manage, distribute, and use records in all forms; and
  • • adequate budget, space, and supplies for managing and protecting both paper and electronic records (Lipchak & McDonald, 2003).

A project entitled Accelerating Positive Change in Electronic Records Management (AC + erm) that was conducted between 2007 and 2010, confirmed that few organizations have an articulated vision for electronic records management and that the people issues were predominant, fundamental, and challenging. Records management challenges are not only technical but the people issues such as: culture, philosophical attitudes, lack of records management knowledge and skills are posing enormous challenges to the effective management of records (McLeod, Childs, & Hardiman, 2010). Organizations need to create and promote awareness among all staff members, carry out training, and implement user-friendly technologies that would motivate the staff members to leave their personal embedded practices that do not promote good records management practices. Evolving records management culture requires policy development which would assign accountability to the appropriate levels of staff (Daum, 2007).

 
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