Friday, November 24, 2006

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 4 - Is it part of decision making?

In Part 3 I had a quick look to see if any ANU courses had content on electronic records/archives management and found some with some relevance. But I wonder if this goes far enough in addressing the overall problem.

When teaching e-Document management and e-Archiving to the ANU students, I have a lot of difficulty keeping them interested. Similarly, the worthy reports on the subject I helped produce as a public servant, were not that exciting to my public service colleagues. The problem is that record keeping is a very dull topic, until something goes horribly wrong. An example what can go wrong is shown by the Oil-For-Food Inquiry.

Perhaps consideration should be given to teaching more on e-records as part of decision making in eGovernment and eBusiness. The emphasis would be on how you can use electronic systems to run a government or business, with record keeping to support that, not keeping records for the sake of keeping records.

An example of how this approach could help is with electronic mail. NAA have advised agencies that electronic mail messages can contain important evidence and must be preserved. However, this advice is mostly ignored. The staff of the AWB may well got to jail as a consequence of treating email as ephemeral, with copies of embarrassing messages they thought deleted being exhibited in the hearing.

An example of a system for handling a decision making process which incorporates record keeping is the publishing system I have helped install for ACS academic journals. We have switched on the option to record all correspondence between the editors, reviewers and authors. This was so we could keep track of correspondence in the event of an error or deliberate fraud. But it may prove useful in convincing DEST that the publications are rigorously refereed and high quality.

ps: Last week I was elected Director of the Professional Development Board of the ACS. The ACS runs on-line postgraduate and short training courses for IT professionals. There may be scope for ACS to provide some e-document courses for IT professionals who have to incorporate it in systems.

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