Information Governance ANZ was pleased to host an interactive forum with David Fricker, Director-General of the National Archives of Australia regarding the new policy Building Trust in the Public Record: managing information and data for government and community.
This interactive session covered:
· Key information management requirements for Australian Government agencies
· Actions that agencies can take to build information management capability and address areas of low performance
· Current and future needs for authentic and reliable information and dat a by government and community
The importance of trust
David outlined the role of the National Archives and its responsibilities under the Archives Act 1983. NAA identifies archival resources, preserves them and provides the government and community with access to those resources. The Archives also develops standards to help Commonwealth agencies manage data and information – ensuring the integrity and accessibility of these resources for as long as they are needed.
The public sector relies on well managed information to support, protect and serve the community. Building Trust in the Public Record identifies key requirements for managing Australian Government information assets (records, information and data). It helps agencies improve how they create, collect, manage and are able to use information assets.
Government has a complex landscape of data driven processes that rely on access to information. Trust in this information is important for democracy. It underpins people’s trust in government and communities’ trust in public services.
Cluttered regulatory landscape
In the digital age, reliable information is essential for good government and creating a just, inclusive and fair society.
There is a spectrum of issues to be considered in a comprehensive information governance program, from privacy and cybersecurity; to analytics and ethical data use; to access and legal discovery.
David explained that there are many different regulatory bodies overseeing the effectiveness of different aspects of information governance and compliance with the law. This includes the Attorney-General’s Department, the Digital Transformation Agency, the Office of the National Data Commissioner and the Office of the Information Commissioner, in addition to the National Archives.
Participants discussed the challenges of meeting the diverse array of requirements, in this ‘cluttered’ regulatory landscape. Susan noted this is the reason why a multidisciplinary approach is the key to success.
Rather than getting caught up in a thousand requirements, David recommended a more strategic approach. An overarching information governance program helps connect the dots.
He emphasised the need to understand what your organisation’s purpose is, and how the information strategy supports it. This will address both the compliance requirements and business needs for information.
A national resource but not a natural resource
While other regulatory bodies are generally focused on the best and safest ways to use data and information; the National Archives looks at where the data and information comes from. It is made by agencies or received from the public, and you need the right processes in place to assure its quality.
The current government focus is on jobs and building the economy. Reliable information is central to delivering the best public outcomes. So it makes sense government needs to invest in the stewardship of its data and information resources.
David noted that times of uncertainty and social upheaval are when we are most susceptible to misinformation – and this stimulated a lively discussion among participants. Susan drew parallels with the panel discussion on IG and COVID-19. During a crisis, access to accurate, real-time data is vital for decision-making. Records of those decisions are essential for accountability and lessons-learned.
What gets measured, gets managed
Monitoring and reporting are also important elements of accountability.
The Digital Continuity 2020 policy was launched in 2015 and based on three principles:
- Information is valued. It is managed as a strategic asset, with appropriate governance and responsibilities.
- Information is managed digitally. Agencies should create and maintain information in digital form, with metadata to ensure its evidentiary value.
- Information is interoperable. It should be accessible and reusable between agencies, systems and generations of technology. This reduces duplication and the effects of structural changes in government.
In live polling during the webinar, participants said their greatest challenge to implementing better the policy were executive sponsorship, budget and resources.
Checkup is an annual survey to measures agencies’ information management maturity, and progress towards Digital Continuity 2020 targets.
At the end of 2019, around 50% of agencies reported they have implemented information governance holistically with established roles and responsibilities.
Most agencies (81%) are working digitally by default, and 71% continue to identify and remove paper from their processes. Given the rapid digital transformation due to COVID-19, these figures may increase even further in the next report.
Less than 50% were ensuring new or updated business systems could keep information accessible and usable for its whole life. This could pose risks, if the use of these systems and volumes of information have grown significantly over the past year.
David highlighted the Business System Assessment Framework as a handy tool to support procurement and evaluation of information management functionality in applications that are used for day-to-day operations.
We asked webinar participants whether they had the right technology in place to support data and information management requirements. Only 17% were confident while half said their systems have the capability but are not correctly configured.
Just over 40% of agencies have implemented interoperability measures, such as metadata standards. This could impact the quality or reusability of data and information in the future.
Sentencing and disposal of digital records is reportedly very low. With security and privacy requirements placing emphasis on data minimisation, this will be a priority area for improvement.
Check-up PLUS 2021 opens on 1 December 2020 and runs until 31 March 2021. The survey reporting date will be with effect from 31 December 2020 to coincide with the cessation of the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy.
Building Trust in the Public Record takes effect from 1 January 2021, leveraging the work of Digital Continuity 2020.
The new policy complements the broader agenda to:
- digitally transform Australian Government services (Digital Transformation Agency)
- protect Australian Government information assets (Attorney-General’s Department and Office of the Australian Information Commissioner)
- maximise the use and re-use of Australian Government information assets (Office of the National Data Commissioner and Australian Bureau of Statistics).
The National Archives will progressively develop and release supporting products and advice to help agencies implement the new policy. Agencies are also encouraged to share their experiences, to support colleagues across the sector.
If you would like to listen to the full presentation and discussion, you can access a recording of the session here.
You can read the submission from Information Governance ANZ on the draft policy here.
Sonya Sherman is a member of the Information Governance ANZ advisory board member and Principal at Zen Information.