Launch of new eLearning modules

A speech given by David Fricker, Director-General, National Archives of Australia in Canberra on 21 November 2014

Thank you very much for the introduction Anne. I would also like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people upon whose lands Canberra has been built and I acknowledge their elders past and present.

And it's delightful to see you all here today and to welcome those attending by webcast as well. I'm really pleased to be here at the launch of our eLearning modules.

First I'd like to talk a little about the policy context or the overall strategic context of what it is we are talking about today, just to remind us all as information and records professionals what it is we are trying to do. The transformation that we are pushing across the Commonwealth is very important.

Digital Transition Policy

Now as everybody here today – as I recognise many faces in the room – and I hope people online as well would know, there are two very important policies that the National Archives is pushing at the moment. One is the Digital Transition Policy which says that by the end of 2015, all Commonwealth agencies will have in place digital information management capability to ensure that records and information that are born digital are going to stay digital. It will be managed as digital and if it is to be transferred for permanent preservation by the Archives it will be transferred digitally into a digital archive, and throughout its life it will be maintained as digital. And that is the Digital Transition Policy.

Now I am delighted to say that we've got good traction on that. As we speak today, about 85 per cent of Commonwealth agencies are confident of meeting that target. As we get closer and closer to the target date, we at the Archives will be working hard across the community to make that achievement as high as we possibly can, and I am quite optimistic about how we are going on that front. For those of you who are here today, I would like to personally thank each of you because this transition is being driven by the professional cohort across the Commonwealth represented by all of you and I really do appreciate that.

Digital Continuity 2020

What happens after the transition? What happens at the end of 2015? What do we need to do to have in place a sustainable, enduring, information governance framework that will take Australia forward into the information economy? What do we need to do to keep the Commonwealth moving productively and effectively in a digital world, delivering the best possible service to Australians and participating in the global information economy? That is the Digital Continuity 2020 policy. It is based upon a set of targets which I'll briefly go through, which we will achieve by the year 2020.

To make this transformation sustainable, enduring and to provide lasting value for Australia and Australians, by the end of 2020 across the Commonwealth, all of our ICT systems – not just the EDRMS, but every ICT system – is going to comply with the international standard ISO 16175.

As everyone would appreciate, behind that rather boring bureaucratic number for the ISO standard, there are very sensible pragmatic standards that ensure that IT systems and information systems have embedded in them capability and functionality to make sure information is not subject to unauthorised deletion, alteration or theft and that access to information is based on legitimate requirements and accreditation of users. Data can be imported into and exported out of those systems for reuse and repurposing later. These are very pragmatic, very obvious and logical features that every IT professional would want to have embedded in those products and that the IT industry should be encouraged to supply when we buy those things. So that's the first target of ISO 16175.

Second, we are going to have digital decision-making. By that I mean we are not going to break the chain of digital information workflows by producing a record on a sheet of paper solely for the purpose of having a wet ink signature applied to it and that is the probity of a record of a decision. Now we are going to have properly automated workflows and we are going to have decisions recorded digitally, which have evidentiary standard and which are available to use as records of the activities of the Commonwealth. That is very important.

Third is interoperability which is a constant problem that we face in our day-to-day lives. This comes up every time there is a machinery of government change, every time there is a restructure or reorganisation across agencies. Each of us within our silos, within our organisations, within our agencies, are still creating data which, from the moment they are created, are not compatible with other data sets being created by other arms of the Commonwealth. We are going to stop doing that. By 2020 we won't be talking about how we do that anymore and Commonwealth data will be interoperable across the Commonwealth.

Fourth is metadata. Not only will the data itself be interoperable, but we are going to have metadata which is interoperable. And if you have rich metadata standards then as we all know the information we hold across the Commonwealth is discoverable, is accessible, is reusable to be repurposed and give more benefit as time goes by. So metadata standards are very important.

And finally – and quite pertinent to what we are talking about here today – is we are going to professionalise information and records management across the Commonwealth. This is not to say it isn't professional at the moment, but today you wouldn't have a CFO in an organisation who does not possess a certified practicing accountant qualification or certification; you would not have a legal advisor in your agency who does not possess some sort of professional certification to be a legal advisor.

Now information is a vitally important asset for the Commonwealth. Bad information leads to bad decision-making and at the extreme ends of Commonwealth decision-making, these become life and death issues. They become absolutely fundamental to integrity and accountability of government and the proper ethical delivery of public services, so we do need a professional standard to be applied to our information and records management.

So by 2020 the target is that each agency is going to have an appointed officer, with appointed responsibility for information and records management and that office, or the person occupying that office, will possess a professional certification that demonstrates and provides confidence that they are properly qualified to hold that role. And the agency head can rely upon the advice that person will provide in the conduct of that agency and its ongoing information governance, so it is really very important.

So by 2020, we have to get there. Now I'm telling you we have set that target. I really have an open mind about how we achieve that and I think we should really look broadly at what sort of professional standards that we set up, and what sort of accreditation systems we have. So I don't have the answer yet, but I know we've got that target and we need to work across the community to achieve that.

So they are the targets for Digital Continuity 2020 and right now within the Archives, and in consultation across the community, we're developing the policies and standards which will underpin the achievements of those targets. But those targets are set, so be in no doubt, Digital Continuity 2020 is a reality and the targets are there, and we need to work together to develop a pathway to achieve those targets.

Fast forward to 2020

Now just finally, if I can step back a bit and say okay I've set those targets for 2020 there at one level strategic, but they're kind of technical strategic. Now why is it? Why are we so animated? Why do we feel the imperative to achieve those targets? If I was living in the year 2020, sending a postcard back to us here today, describing the world that I am operating in, what sort of descriptions would I have that would demonstrate the benefits and needs for doing this?

We have reduced it down to six statements which I think are quite useful instructive statements to talk about why it is we are doing it, not using ISO standard numbers, but in plain English.

So the person in 2020 talking about what their work environment is like in the Commonwealth will be saying these things:

  • In my organisation, all the information we create is instantly ready for reuse, it is interoperable across the Commonwealth, and it's available and usable for as long as it's needed.
    Simple, plain English, bleedingly obvious. From the moment it is created, it is interoperable, and it's available for reuse. You cannot deny that we should be doing that.
  • Secondly they'd be saying, that all the information in my organisation is discoverable across my organisation by everybody who has legitimate need to discover it.
    Simple, plain, self-evident. All the information that we do have is accurate, it's complete and it's up to date.
  • Thirdly, our corporate governance – the way we run our organisation, the way we ensure things are done correctly and the correct things are being done – our corporate governance has information governance built into it. Our corporate governance ensures that information management practices all support good decision-making, with integrity, with accountability, transparency to deliver good business outcomes.

    That's the derivative of good information and good information governance.
  • Our computer systems all have embedded in them, the functions, the features and the properties to protect information from unauthorised alteration, deletion or misuse. We have rock solid, in-depth defences against cyber threats and misuse of information.
  • And finally, our organisational culture. The people in our organisation understand and appreciate the value of information as an asset for the Commonwealth. Not only as an absolute necessity for good policy development, for good delivery of public services, but an asset for the Commonwealth in terms of the intellectual property of this country that enables us to go on and achieve further innovations and further progress, and as a cultural heritage of the country, as a way that we are delivering an insight to all Australians into the operation of their democratically elected government and the operation of their nation.

Because today in 2014 most of us in the public service and across the Commonwealth live in the moment. We worry about the transaction we are working on right now, but little do we realise, because at the Archives we see it every day, little do you realise that you are making history. That the work we're doing today and the records we are making today are the window that our future generations are going to have into what this country is, the identity of this country, how it is the country it is today, and as it will be in the future, and where that came from. And that is a responsibility that we all bear and we need to take that very, very seriously. So Commonwealth information as they intellectual property of the nation, and the cultural heritage of its people are two very important aspects to hang onto.

Now as I say, those are 2020 targets, but we're not going to start doing that on 31st December 2019, we have already started. It takes a few years to get to that point. So we are on this continuous journey to make sure we achieve those targets and today's event is a part of that. Because to achieve those targets, we of course are going to need the technical infrastructure, we are going to need all the plumbing, and the cables, the fibre optics, the processors, the data storage arrays etc., and the software. But we are also going to need the human capital, we are going to need the strategic human capital that has the professionalism, the expertise, the skills and the culture to make all of that happen, and that's what we are talking about today.

Expertise in digital information management

What we are talking about today is a part of that strategy; part of what we are doing to enable all of us to have access to the tools that we need to develop those skills, and to develop those organisational cultures that we need. It's very important. So be in no doubt, that when you are looking at this, this is part of a major strategy, for a major policy, which fits in with a very broad government policy around e- government and the digital economy. So it's really important stuff and that's why I'm just so delighted to be here today to be part of this.

Guest speaker – Ian McPhee, Auditor-General of Australia

And why I am especially delighted to have our guest here today, Ian McPhee, Auditor-General of Australia to launch this important innovation. Ian McPhee, a man who needs no introduction but none the less will get one right now is our Auditor-General of Australia. Ian was appointed Auditor General for Australia in March 2005. Prior to that he had a very distinguished career. He was Deputy Secretary in the Department of Finance and Administration as it was then, and in 2002 was awarded the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service to public sector accounting and auditing and the development of industry accounting standards. So we could not ask for someone who is more eminently qualified to come here and talk to us today and to launch this product. So would you please join me in welcoming Ian McPhee to the podium.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019