Preserving electronic memory : an investigation into the role played by the National Archives of South Africa in the management of electronic records of central government.
This study sought to investigate the role of the National Archives of South Africa in terms of the management of the electronic records of central government. The research methodology selected for this study was descriptive research, utilising the case study approach. Two data gathering techniques were employed, that of the record and the interview methods. In utilising the record method extensive use was made of a variety of documents ranging from legislation to the manuals and internal circulars of the National Archives. After the documentary evidence had been analyzed, three nonscheduled-structured-interviews were carried out with National Archives staff. In the process of the investigation a number of findings were generated. It was established that the National Archives is responsible for managing the electronic records of governmental bodies. In order to fulfill this responsibility the National Archives has developed an electronic records management programme. This programme aims to involve the National Archives in the design and maintenance of electronic records systems, to allow the early transfer of electronic records into archival custody, and to facilitate the identification of those archival electronic records that should remain in the possession of the creating body. As a result of the literature reviewed and the interviews conducted, a number of challenges were identified with regards to the National Archives' management of the electronic records of central government. Among these were issues such as the lack of staff resources that the National Archives currently faces, the perceived low status of the National Archives within the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, and the lack of cooperation and communication between the National Archives and its client bodies or components thereof. The National Archives is attempting to deal with a number of these challenges, but it would appear as if they are adopting a reactive and overly cautious approach to the management of electronic records. While they are well informed in terms of the theory of electronic records management, they are greatly lacking in terms of practical experience. It was recommended that the National Archives address the issue of staff resources as a priority. It was further recommended that the National Archives emphasise the business benefits to be gained by governmental bodies implementing records management practices, and that the National Archives become a more active player in the broader discipline of information management.
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