The advent of digital technology has brought about new challenges that the Western Cape Archives and Records Service needs to deal with. There are two broad areas of challenges, they are:
the management of “digitally born” electronic records; and,
the management of the digitisation process of the largely paper-based historical records to digital formats.
The evident- and increasing need for governmental bodies to embark on digitisation projects has necessitated the compilation of a policy document to control and guide the standards, processes and storage of the resulting digital images and accompanying data. The Western Cape Archives and Records Service is mandated with the task of ensuring that reliable records are maintained, over time, as evidence of official business for the purposes of accountability, operational continuity, disaster recovery and institutional and social memory.
1.3 Policies and structures are in place to guide the archiving of paper-based records, to ensure that the records are physically cared for, and that the evidence they contain remains accessible over time. The relatively recent arrival of digital technology and its rapid adoption for everyday business and governmental affairs has resulted in a rapidly-changing technological environment with relatively few guides and standards for the long term preservation of electronic and digital records crafted for South African conditions.
1.4 It is essential that governmental bodies give specific consideration to the preservation of electronic records as part of the management of records. The Provincial Archives and Records Service of the Western Cape Act, 2005 (Act No. 3 of 2005) does contain some provisions specifically regarding electronic records.1 However, for the main part current legislation has not managed to keep pace with the rapidly evolving developments in digital technology and their subsequent adoption by a variety of institutions (including governmental bodies). It is therefore, incumbent on the Western Cape Archives and Records Service to introduce guidelines to best manage the rapidly evolving digital landscape that governmental bodies find themselves operating within, with due regard for South Africa’s unique and particular circumstances.
1.5 The responsible care and management of digital records is thus vital to the functioning of government, the provision of accountable and transparent governance and of service delivery.
1.6 Without the responsible care and management of digital records, there will be no long-term institutional and social memory of the present age in the custody of the Western Cape Archives and Records Service.
1.7 Public records are the output of the business and administrative processes of a governmental body. Records serve as essential proof of the business that was conducted and should remain unaltered over time for as long as they are needed. As evidence of official business, records have on-going use as a means of management, accountability, operational continuity, legal evidence and disaster recovery. They also form the memory of the institution that created them, and they are part of society’s memory and the broader cultural heritage. In some cases records also have a bearing on the rights of citizens.
1.8 Records, thus, are a vital aspect of a country’s history, memory and heritage – it is important that they are managed in such a way as to preserve their integrity and content for future generations. The management of records within the digital environment is thus a vital extension of the functions that the Western Cape Archives and Records Service, as well as associated governmental bodies, have performed with regard to paper-based records.
1.9 The policies, principles and requirements in this policy document are applicable to all governmental bodies, that is: any legislative, executive, judicial or administrative organ of state (including a statutory body) within the Western Cape Province.