A significant amount of government information created, received, stored and sent is in electronic form, such as email messages and their attachments, word processing or spreadsheet documents, web pages and databases. Even formal documents such as tax returns, licence and permit applications and other documents lodged with agencies, generally originate in electronic format. Much of this electronic information will only ever exist in digital form.
Whilst electronic information is seemingly kept forever, national and international experience indicates digital information and records are disappearing at an alarming rate. Digital information and records are at high risk of degrading or being irretrievably lost within seven (7) years from creation, due to constantly changing technology. Government needs to be able to access information for much longer than this in order to review, evaluate and develop policy, to conduct day-to-day business, and to prepare for the future.
Making information and records of government business accessible to citizens is the major function of a democracy. Digital records are an essential source of evidence that documents the democratic rights and entitlements of citizens, for instance births, deaths and marriage records, court decisions and lands title records. A proportion of digital records also documents Government's achievements and therefore constitutes our future history and heritage.
'Information' is codified knowledge, which is transferred and stored by means of documents, records, publications, databases, tools, images, plans, sound/video recordings, etc. Information is an asset and a resource that State and Local Government agencies harness to meet their strategic, operational and legal needs.
'Records' are a special subset of 'information' deemed to have evidential, legal, administrative or historical value to an organisation and warranting special attention concerning retention, accessibility and retrieval.
'Official' records include information created, received, and maintained as evidence by an organisation or person (agency), in conduct/transaction of its business. Official records are identified as such because of the activity they document, not their format. Consequently official records will exist in a variety of digital formats.
Australian Standard HB 171-2003 Guidelines for the management of IT evidence (available for purchase from http://www.standards.org.au)
South Australian Government IT Standards relevant to the operating environment for State Government agencies can be found on the Office of the Chief Information Officer website.
VERS - Victorian Electronic Records Strategy. State Records of South Australia has adopted VERS to complement its own EDRMS suite of standards. VERS is to be used, in addition to the specific standards developed for South Australian Government, as a compliance standard for all Electronic Document and Records Management Systems (EDRMS). VERS has been developed by Public Record Office Victoria to preserve electronic records for the long term. Further details can be found on the Victorian Electronic Records Strategy website.