The Responsibilities of the National Archives in the Management of Electronic Records

Etiwel Mutero
Roper and Miller (1999:1) listed the benefits of electronic as; increased access to information, flexibility in the creation and use of information, improved efficiency and effectiveness, increased economic ad business opportunities and improved capacity for audit and compliance.  It is these benefits that should make all organizations and states ensure that electronic records remain accessible.  In this paper, the author is going to discuss the responsibilities of the National Archives in the management of electronic records.

The National Achieves is a government owned institution which manages government or private records of enduring value, be it, legal values, historical values or research values.  An electronic record is written on magnetic or optical medium, such as magnetic tapes, CD ROMs, DVDs, hard disks, USBs (Universal Serial Buses) and other digital storage devices, recorded in binary code, accessed using computer software and hardware, easily manipulated, updated, deleted and altered.  Ropper and Miller (1999:26).

The National Archives as a repository of all records of enduring value, regardless of medium or forum, should spell out how electronic records should be managed from creating agencies up to the time they are deposited to the National Archives.  Usually government responsibility over electronic records is spelt in the archives law.It is this kind of law which should set out the standards in which electronic records should be created, maintained and used and how they should be disposed.

The standard National Archives law should state how electronic files should be managed.  File naming is important part of any records management programme.  A file name is the principle identifier for a record. Records that are named using a consistent, logical system can be more easily located and stored among users.  The national Archives law, which should apply to all creating agencies, should require agency-wide file naming management policies.

In developing a file naming procedure, organisations should include some of the following familiar components, version number, date of creation, name of creator, description of content, name of intended audience name of group associated with content, release date , publication date, project number , department number and records series.

Whenever an electronic file naming is developed the National Archives should put a law that ensures that file naming policies of organisations should be straight forward and simple, scalable, unique, file names should be comprehensible and should make sense to users, not just the persons who created the file.  There must be policies to determine how to manage different reasons of the record.  Some of the organisation includes a version number in the file name.

The national Archives should spell out how emails should be managed in creating agencies up to the National Archives itself.  E-mail messages both sent and received, that provide evidence of a government transaction are considered public records.  Agency and local Record Officers must ensure that email is organised for convenient retrieval, maintained, and disposed of in accordance with an approved record retention and disposition schedule, and accessible as technology is upgraded or changed.

The effort to develop and implement an e-mail management policy is the responsibility of the National Archives together with each agency or locality and involves a cooperative effort between records management staff, administration, legal counsel, and information technology departments.  While IT is necessarily involved in many aspects of records management, such as server maintenance and destruction of backup tapes, creation and dissemination of e-mail management policy is the responsibility of the Records officer. The e-mail management policy should spell out how e-mail is stored, archived and disposed.

The National Archives policies should also direct web content Management.  Government web sites contain records that document public transactions just like paper records and, as a result, a web site must be retained like any other record because of the volatise nature of web sites, however, web record retention has remained a challenge for Archives and Record Managers across the country.  Static sits are uncommon, especially in government, where policies, procedures, and public notifications posted on web pages changes frequently.

It is the responsibility of the National Archives to make policies on how database are to be managed.  Databases must incorporate at least the following features if they are to be properly managed.  First databases must enable the user to take and store file off-line.  Second, databases must be able to identify records that have reached the end of their retention period.  Lastly, databases should have ability to allow users to attract records from the database for the purpose of disposal.

The National Archives should also make policies in regard to the preservation of electronic records; the electronic records plans must consider the probability of hardware and software obsolescence and guarantee long tern access to records.  Proprietary software will eventually become obsolete as companies upgrade or stop producing the product altogether.

There are several approaches to electronic records preservation.  This includes emulation; emulator programmes simulate the behaviour, look, and feel f other programs, thus preserving the functionality of the records n their original format without the necessity of saving the original equipment and software.  Other methods include, encapsulation, migration, and conversion.

The last issue in the management of electronics is their storage.  The National Archives should set out environmental conditions for the storage of electronic records such as floppy disks, compact disks, DVDs; USBs should b specified in the National Archives policies.

This paper had attempted to discuss how the National Archives can help in the management of electronic records.  It had discussed the management of emails, databases, web content, electronic files, electronic storage media and preservation of electric records.

Roper & Miller, (1999), Management of Electronic Records, IRMT, UN
Virginia Library, (An online document)
Sutton, Michael, (1996), Document Management for the Enterprise: Principles, Techniques and Applications, Wiley.
Thorpe, 1992, keeping Archives 2nd Ed, American society of Archivists.

Etiwel Mutero holds a Bsc Honours Degree in Records and Archives Management from the Zimbabwe Open University.Do you want assistance in writing your college or university assignment? You can contact Etiwel Mutero on 00263773614293 or

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