Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
License needed for work use Register

Art & Entertainment | Book Reviews | Education | Entertainment Video | Health | Lifestyle | Sport | Sport Video | Search


Better recordkeeping needed to preserve our digital heritage

Better recordkeeping needed to preserve our digital heritage

Poor recordkeeping of electronic documents and digital records may lead to a loss of accountability and collective history in public sector organisations, a Victoria University of Wellington PhD graduand warns.

Matthew Lewellen, who graduates with a PhD in Information Systems in May, conducted research on why many public servants baulk at the idea of robust electronic recordkeeping.

“‘My Documents’ was the death knell to decent recordkeeping,” says Matt. “Back in the old paper days we had records clerks who figured out where our documents needed to go, and their job was to do the filing and properly manage those records. Nowadays we’re creating documents and records at a furious pace and it’s the end user—the creator of the documents—who is responsible for the filing, but many people lack sufficient motivation to do it correctly, or even at all.”

Matt decided to undertake a PhD on the topic after having trouble engaging staff with a new electronic document and records management system (EDRMS) that he was implementing in a public sector organisation.

“I found that if the technology is easy to use, people are more likely to use it—no surprises there. But even if it’s really easy to use, you won’t get buy-in if people don’t value its purpose. Anecdotally, I’d say 60 to 70 percent of people I talked to were ambivalent or even actively disliked records management, mostly because it was an added layer of responsibility on top of what they were already doing.”

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

The answer to the buy-in problem can be linked to the culture of an organisation, says Matt.

“I came across examples where some staff viewed knowledge as power and didn't always want to ‘lose’ that power by putting information in the system for others to find and use.

“However, in organisations where everyone wants to share information and work collaboratively, a shared electronic recordkeeping system can dramatically improve the efficiency and effectiveness of information sharing. It retains the record’s context in addition to its content (thereby meeting recordkeeping standards), enables targeted searching, enforces access security rules for sensitive records, and supports workflow and version control—what’s not to like?”

People’s perception about the value of recordkeeping was important as well, Matt found. “People who value the records they created would muddle through the most poorly designed system to make sure they saved them properly and for the future, but for others it didn’t matter how easy or automated you could make the system, they still wouldn't use it.”

Not all documents need to be kept, says Matt. “What’s often lacking in training is the context of helping people to figure out what a record is, why they’re capturing it in the first place, and how best to recognise what’s record-worthy.

“As well as training people on the importance of recordkeeping, I think there need to be changes to how the technology is implemented to make it easier and more customised for individuals. The system may focus on organisational accountability, but it’s the users that make it work.”

Matt will graduate with a PhD in Information Systems on Thursday 14 May.


© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

International Art Centre: Rare Goldie Landscape Expected To Fetch $150,000

When Evening Shadows Fall is one of four works by Goldie included in a sale of Important and Rare Art at the International Art Centre in Parnell on November 28. Goldie painted only a handful of landscapes, concentrating mainly on indigenous portraits, which earned him a global reputation as NZ’s finest painter of respected Māori elders (kaumātua). More

Mark Stocker: History Spurned - The Arrival Of Abel Tasman In New Zealand

On the face of it, Everhardus Koster's exceptional genre painting The Arrival of Abel Tasman in New Zealand should have immense appeal. It cannot find a buyer, however, not because of any aesthetic defects, but because of its subject matter and the fate of the Māori it depicts. More



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland

Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.