As we put 2020 behind us and look forward to 2021, we reflected in an interactive virtual discussion forum on the key IG learnings from the past 12 months and the insights and actions we now need to be taking to make the most of the opportunities and challenges on the road to recovery in 2021.
We’ve seen the different ways governments have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the results in managing the pandemic. Similarly, organisations have had to adapt to the changes and, in particular, to faster digital transformation. Robust governance of organisations and of information has never been so important. Increased cyber risks and the importance of access to real-time and accurate data for decision-making, both at the board level and throughout the organisation, are now critical issues.
Our expert panel included InfoGovANZ Advisory Board member, Sonya Sherman, with over 20 years’ experience is a highly regarded subject matter expert in public records, information access and information governance.
Sonya has held senior public policy and advisory roles, developing legislation and international standards, providing strategic policy advice and implementing sector-wide reforms in areas such as digital transformation, data sharing and open government, in Australia and internationally.
She is a member of the cross-jurisdictional, cross-sector Data Sharing Taskforce convened by the Australian Computer Society (ACS); and a member of the International Organization for Standardization ISO/IEC JTC001/SC32/WG6 Joint Technical Committee Working Group on Data Usage. Sonya’s passion is helping people create, find, use and share information, for better business and more connected communities.
At last year’s Roundtable, Sonya pointed out three priorities for information governance:
- Connectivity - had to do with maintaining business as usual during the shift to digital and remote working. Organisations in 2020 quickly realised that access to reliable information was just as important as access to technology. Rapid digital transformation has been broadly successful in knowledge industries and laggards did a lot of catching up over the past year. But we also saw innovative use of data and technology in sectors that previously relied on in-person interaction. Think about orchestras and choir groups; personal trainers; real estate auctions; Cabinet meetings; and Parliament. Moving forward, we’re seeing connectivity transition to creativity, with new types of digital products and services coming into play. This is going to have flow-on effects for information governance and regulation.
- Sustainability - ensured the systems and processes put in place last year will help maintain good governance across a remote workforce and a distributed information ecosystem for the longer term. The jury is still out on this one. Rapid transformation in some cases will mean data and information have ‘slipped through the cracks.’ It’s likely some organisations are suffering major challenges with version control, with increased risks of data leakage or data breaches. It’s likely we'll never go back to working the way we used to, but this doesn't mean we will all remain working remotely.
- Accountability - recognised the critical importance of keeping records during the crisis, even though it may seem more difficult than usual. Last year, Sonya noted that every decision and action would potentially come under scrutiny and we’ve certainly seen a lot of inquiries already, with, no doubt, more to come. We've also seen the benefits of keeping records, to learn from and adjust our actions through successive virus waves. Accountability will transition to transparency and organisations or governments that communicate very openly with staff or citizens and provide regular, reliable information will build trust that helps them meet their goals. Trust will break down when information is withheld or people have doubts about it.
We are also seeing the advantages of sharing data and information to enable contact tracing and to rapidly develop vaccines. It's really important that people can trust systems and processes to maintain data integrity and protect their personal information at this time.
There will be growing awareness of the value IG brings to organisations, government and communities. The pandemic is having a huge impact on the way we live, the environment and global politics. Maintaining accessible records and data about this period in history continues to be vitally important for our future world.
Questions for leaders
- Connectivity and creativity: Given the new types of digital products and services coming into play, are you ready for the flow-on effects for information governance and regulation?
- Sustainability: You will see sustainability transition to scalability. Will your IG systems and processes support a hybrid workplace, where some people are in the office and others are anywhere else.
- Have you carried out a reconciliation, that is, cleared out the redundant, obsolete and trivial (ROT) and duplicates?
- Accountability and transparency: Have you got a communications culture that builds trust? Information sharing leads to better business outcomes.
You can read the insights from the rest of our expert panel in our InfoGovANZ Key Learnings from 2020 – Action and Insights for 2021 Report. The report was developed from a virtual forum discussing the impact of COVID-19 and IG implications for organisations on data, access to information, trust, transparency and accountability, cybersecurity, global privacy regulatory developments, eDiscovery, ethics and artificial intelligence.
You can also watch the recording of the 28 January 2021 webinar here.