Archives awarded for defining digital information management

By Stephen Easton

August 19, 2015

Digital information management is rapidly growing in importance to the point where it is beginning to emerge as a distinct profession, and the National Archives of Australia has won an accolade for its contribution to defining the key skills.

The online capability matrix for digital information and records management released by the Archives in May came out on top of the corporate publications category of the Mander Jones Awards, presented by the Australian Society of Archivists last night in Hobart.

Building up the digital skills of information management professionals is “the secret” to successfully making use of the growing quantities of information in the hands of government agencies and other large organisations, according to NAA director-general David Fricker (pictured above).

“Managing information and records in a digital business context is an increasingly complex undertaking due to the proliferation of technologies and formats, and huge volumes of data,” Fricker said.

“If information and records are not effectively managed during their active business life, they risk being lost or becoming technically obsolete and therefore unavailable for inclusion in archival collections.”

Launching the capability matrix in May, he said digital information management had become an integral part of everything the public service does currently and hopes to achieve in future.

“We need to make sure that information managers are recognised and that they have a seat at the table,” Fricker said at the time.

He and the Australian Public Service Commission’s human capital chief Ian Fitzgerald also used the launch event to discuss the emergence of information management as a more defined career stream in the public sector, possibly as one of many UK-style “public service professions”.

“There is a system-wide need to improve information management capability in the APS,” said Fitzgerald, based on what he had seen through the 23 capability reviews managed by the APSC.

Fricker added that government agencies would soon begin to employ designated information management specialists, and might need to eventually create “chief information governance officer” roles as well.

“We need to make sure that as part of the overall governance of organisations — the decision making, the policy making, the operational decisions in all government agencies — information management is recognised,” he explained. “That information managers have a seat at the table when those important decisions are being taken. When spending decisions are being made, when strategies are being formulated, when decisions are being made about amalgamation, or … machinery of government changes.”

While primarily designed to help public servants develop information management skills as records and archives become digital by default, the online professional development tool is not hidden away from people outside the federal government who might also find it useful. According to the NAA:

“The capability matrix has been developed within the Australian Government context but is readily applicable to other areas, including commercial organisations. It has already been praised by local and international government and archival bodies.”

The online tool prompts users to select from one of three work areas — specialist information and records managers, ICT specialists, and all other staff — as well as their broad level of seniority, and one of nine separate capabilities.

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