Tuesday, 14 October 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
333. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department has a corporate policy, a departmental strategy and an electronic document and record management system in place in connection with electronic records; the system in place to preserve electronic records for the future; and if this system allows for the easy searching of records to comply with the requirements of and the implementation of the freedom of information legislation and the relevant national archives legislation. [22835/03]
Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Mr. O'Donoghue): My Department has in place a record management strategy which has three main elements as follows. One is a policy on record management covering procedures relating to the creation, maintenance and eventual disposition of records. The policy includes the legal requirements relating to the preservation of records in accordance with the national archives legislation and procedures concerning the preservation of electronic records, including e-mail, computer-generated reports and documents prepared on personal productivity software, for example, word processing software.
Another element is a policy on file maintenance which sets out the procedures for filing and associating records on individual files to ensure that records are stored correctly and can be retrieved as quickly as possible, particularly in the context of the Freedom of Information Acts.
The third element is an IT supported central file registration and tracking system which provides a centrally held and locally accessible database for recording the existence, status and location of files. My Department is in the process of reviewing its overall record management strategy, primarily to take account of the change in functions and staff of the Department since June 2002.
Much of the business of Government is now transacted electronically and it is essential that resources, both knowledge resources and physical resources, are developed to enable the records and other cultural objects thus created to be preserved into the future. My Department and the cultural institutions that come under its aegis are fully aware of the importance in a digital age of preserving what will be regarded by future generations of Irish people as their digital heritage.
As the Deputy is aware, the National Archives is part of my Department. The National Archives has statutory responsibility for departmental records, that is, the records of Departments, the courts and the bodies listed in the Schedule to the National Archives Act 1986. It oversees the ongoing implementation of the provisions of the Act and the regulations and guidelines made under it with regard to the preservation or disposal of such records and their transfer to the National Archives.
In July of this year, I appointed to the National Archives an archivist with specific and exclusive responsibility for electronic records in recognition  of the fact that an increasing volume of Government business is now transacted electronically thus creating a need for the development of strategies for the long-term preservation of electronic records.
In the coming months, the National Archives will undertake a number of pilot studies within Departments and State agencies to assess the scope, range, quality and quantity of existing electronic records whose long-term preservation is required under the National Archives Act. These studies will help to identify the main types of computer applications used to create and maintain electronic records of Government and to highlight the different problems that systems are likely to present in respect of the long-term preservation of records created or maintained in them.
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