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Memento : Issue 27
According to Dr Peter Shergold, Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the digital revolution has transformed the way public servants do business. 'Paper may still be with us', he observes, 'but to an ever-increasing extent, it is the detritus of electronic communication. Every day we work and think on email, type word-processed documents, calculate spreadsheets and read websites.' The challenge facing government archival authorities everywhere is how to ensure that electronic records are captured, managed and preserved in their original form, so that they are available in the future. The challenge has led the National Archives to form the Digital Record- keeping Initiative, a collaboration between all national, state and territory government archives in Australia and New Zealand to develop a uniform approach to digital recordkeeping. Launching the Digital Recordkeeping Initiative at an e-government conference in Canberra in May, Dr Shergold acknowledged the difficulty of the task ahead. 'So relentless are the cycles of innovation, and so rapidly does hardware and software become obsolete, that the digital archive is in danger of becoming a crypt for a dead technology. The electronic machines of tomorrow may well struggle to read the electronic communication of today. That is why it is vital to convert and store digital records in a standard and stable format.' This collaboration will build on the work already done by the National Archives of Australia and the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) on standardised formats that can be read by future technology. This includes the Archives' Xena software and the PROV's Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS), which have attracted much attention from the archival community, the records industry and government here and overseas. Xena stands for XML Electronic Normalising of Archives. It uses XML, a computer mark-up language, to convert electronic records into a standardised format that does not depend on proprietary software or hardware to be read. The use of XML is central to the Digital Recordkeeping Initiative's uniform approach to digital preservation. In launching the initiative, Dr Shergold emphasised the importance of keeping Rolling out disposal authorities Inventing something or creating a trademark or unique design does not automatically give you the rights to it. The invention, trademark or design must be registered with IP Australia to gain legal ownership of its intellectual property. Otherwise, one has to rely on common law to prove ownership. Recordkeeping news IP Australia is the current name for the Patents Office, one of the first federal government agencies to be established. The newly developed Records Disposal Authority for IP Australia, issued on 12 February 2004, provides a framework to ensure that registration records are kept and preserved to protect the rights of inventors and creators in the future. The disposal authority will be used to help identify which IP Australia records must be transferred for safekeeping to the Archives, and which records have only a temporary business value and need not be kept. It is the government's way of ensuring that registers of designs, patents and trademarks are kept for generations to come. We have also recently released a new functions-based Records Disposal Authority for the Australian National Wake-up call for digital amnesia 'So relentless are the cycles of innovation, and so rapidly does hardware and software become obsolete, that the digital archive is in danger of becoming a crypt for a dead technology. ' Dr Peter Shergold