Author: David Brown

One of the projects that PROV is currently undertaking is a visioning exercise. In this we are considering information management within the Victorian Public Sector (VPS) in 2017/18. Currently interviews and data are being collected and we expect that the report will be available early next year.

In the meantime, you might be interested in the reasoning behind this project. Our observations and experience is that the changes affecting government at the moment are rapid and far reaching. What we expected and planned for over the medium term, is happening now.


Volume and Storage – huge and unrelenting

Gartner reports that data stored will grow from (2011) 329 exabytes to (2016) 4.1 zettabytes. The Guardian reports that the current figure is 2.8 zettabytes, on that basis the 4.1 zettabytes for 2016 figure is looking like being very much an underestimate.

Gartner identifies that this growth is being substantially driven by the growing use of mobile devices. Further Gartner identifies that this growth is driving the use of cloud for storage.

For the digital archivist and information/records manager, a world of such volumes is challenging, we can’t afford to think that we can control or manually intervene. Rather we need approaches and tools that are attuned to this digital world and scalable to the enormous volumes.


Outsourcing – everything

Not only is capture and storage being outsourced (via BYODs and Cloud) but so are the traditional IT activities through IAAS, SAAS etc. For many organisations, hardware, software and support services will all be outside the traditional organisation. Further the use and availability of apps means that “supply of technology vastly exceeds business demand”. Such app availability allows users to access solutions direct from the market, well beyond the organisations IT team’s central control.

In this paradigm, creation of content is moving rapidly from an ownership to a collaborative model. Users are expecting to be able engage with government, not as clients but as partners (for instance client medical records). Likewise, underpinning the publishing government data, is an expectation that the wider public will add value to the overall community well beyond the capabilities of government.

For the digital archivist and information/records manager, approaches that assume that:

  • we can intervene early in the development if IM/IT solutions may need to be reconsidered. Users can bypass the organisations ICT structures let alone bypass archival expectations.
  • expectations there is an organisational centre of ICT excellence maybe rendered irrelevant, if the products and services are managed from outside the organisation
  • stakeholders are primarily from within the organisation. Such understandings may be outdated and irrelevant.


Digital enterprise – from mimicry to actuality

While digitisation, digital records and the information economy etc have all been around for a while now, only very recently has it been possible to establish a fully digital business. A fully digital business model allows new value and revenue, and new efficiencies, new products and new services. What we have been seeing so far is digital mimicry of previous analog systems, processes, products and services.

For the digital archivist and information/records manager, we are being challenged such things as:

  • recognition that EDRMS may be an inappropriate tool for the fully digital business
  • our experience that classification that relies on any level of human intervention is bound to fail
  • our understanding that the flat/discrete record is difficult to identify, let alone manage
  • realisation that ownership and control over the data is the path to value and revenue (think of Facebook, Instagram and closer to home


Digital Business – disrupting all the old models and understandings

The digital paradigm throws up any number of opportunities for disrupting old understandings. This deserves much more, but I will just mention three:

  • organisations can access large numbers of people who may or may not be skilled. TROVE is a great example of this. This can have many intended and unintended consequences (for instance increased casualisation and use of volunteer labor).
  • digital organisations can influence and be influenced in new and highly particular ways.

For the digital archivist and information/records manager, there are many opportunities and some risks, these could be:

  • outsourcing what we have seen as core activities to the organisation and/or to the general public. This would involve a change in expectation, not just of what the product would be, but also of roles and responsibilities
  • being at the same time more remote (relying more on digital and less of human communications) while at the same time targeting individuals and sectors about behaviours.

I expect to have more in the new year and soon after that the Information Management Report.

David Brown, Assistant Director, Government Services, Public Record Office Victoria.