Call for governments, businesses and research institutions to keep records

Posted by g.law on 13 May 2020 - 9:43am
files on a shelf
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

"The duty to document does not cease in a crisis, it becomes more essential."

A statement issued by ICAInternational Conference of Information Commissioners, supported by ARMA InternationalCODATADigital Preservation CoalitionResearch Data AllianceUNESCO Memory of the World and World Data System calls on governments, businesses, and research institutions around the world to document their decisions and transactions now and for the future.

Sound records management is more important than ever with governments taking unprecedented steps to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the statement says.

"Important decisions are being made by governments involving huge interventions in markets, healthcare and the daily lives of billions of people as they seek to secure the social, economic and cultural wellbeing of their populations and uphold the rule of law.

"The pandemic is showing the benefits of access to large and small scale data to inform decision-making, but this does not reduce the need to contextualise records (i.e. paper documents, data, algorithms, code, audio-visual), nor does it exempt governments from documenting their data analysis processes or capturing critical information," the statement says. 

In the current circumstances, records may be at risk as new ways of working are rapidly adopted without the usual processes and infrastructure, it says.

Urgent steps should also be taken to address recordkeeping in ephemeral technologies that have to be deployed rapidly.

"Just as it is essential to have global agreements on reporting standards, specifications and definitions (as in the Sendai Framework), so it is necessary for archives to be recognised and resourced as the custodians of the raw data that underpins composite data or reported information. The duty to document this information does not cease in a crisis, it becomes more essential than ever," the statement says.