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National Archives to Digitise Records and Boost Cybersecurity

The federal government has handed an extra $67.7 million to the National Archives of Australia to preserve irreplaceable records in a digital form and to protect vulnerable systems from cyber attacks. The funding lifeline comes after a review of the NAA – completed in 2020, but not released until March 2021 – that highlighted a list of problems stemming from a lack of resources.

The report stated that immediate action was needed to preserve deteriorating records in paper-based form, as well as magnetic tape audio-visual records, photos and film, to ensure they weren’t lost forever. The review also noted that, in particular, the NAA has struggled to fulfil its mandate and to invest in the systems it needs in the digital age to meet this mandate.

Resources are needed to invest in contemporary technologies that will meet the volume of digital transfer. Cybersecurity was also underscored as an “urgent priority”, with the collection of government records otherwise “vulnerable to obsolescence, attack, compromise or loss”.

While the government has not provided a breakdown of the new funding, the boost will allow the NAA to digitise its at-risk collection over an “accelerated four-year digitisation program”.

The review had cost a seven-year program for the digitisation of at-risk records at $67.7 million – the exact amount provided by the government on Thursday but over a shorter period. The approximately 270,000 records considered at-risk – or high priority – will be digitally archived, a process that ensures they are digitised, stored, cyber-secured and catalogued by the agency.

The funding will also be used to boost staffing to address backlogs in processing applications to access records, to invest in cybersecurity and further develop the NAA’s next-generation digital archive. The attorney-general said the investment would provide much-needed funding for the agency’s immediate needs.

It was noted that the funding will be critical to preserving Australia’s history, the national treasures that define it and increasing the public’s access to it. Meanwhile, the assistant minister to the attorney-general said the funding would put the digitisation on a fast-tracked timeline.

Recognising the importance of these records, this funding will allow the NAA to do the digitisation work that is needed – including for military documents relating to World War II, Vietnam and Korea, she said.

Digital records are also set to cause the NAA a headache over the coming years, with around 10% – the most valuable records of government decisions – expected to be kept under the Archives Act.

About 6.4PB (petabytes) of born-digital records (created as digital records) are currently awaiting transfer to the NAA from agencies, the review said. The NAA holders nearly 2PB of digital data currently. The volume of born-digital archival records is expected to grow to about 27PB by 2027.

OpenGov Asia reported earlier that the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) recently bought new software from a global leader in cloud-based information management and governance services to modernise and streamline their services. The upgrade is part of the Digital Records Transformation Initiative, led by the Department of Finance, to improve the productivity of the public sector through smart digital records management.

The future of Australian government records management has been a topic of discussion and debate across the Australian Public Service and external electronic digital records management systems vendors for many years.

The initiative is a whole-of-government initiative focused on supporting the development of modernised digital records and information capability across the Australian government and applies to non-corporate commonwealth entities.

The government has agreed to modernise the common function of recordkeeping by taking advantage of new technologies, particularly those that automate the capture and classification of records.

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