|JANUARY 2000||Volume 2 Number 1|
Records and Information Management in the New Millennium
Eunice DiBella, Public Records Administrator
The new millennium is a metaphor for progress, change, and doom. As our own millennium ends, many are caught up in the hope and foreboding of continuing technological change. We know that progress is good, but we have a feeling that the pace of technological change has increased beyond anyone's capacity and skill to manage it. Y2K is a technological issue that concerns records managers and the public alike.
Information is a valuable commodity, but records creators who utilize technology are losing control of the data they create and manage. Let us take, for example, machine-readable records. These can come in a variety of formats, but all share one common element: the need for a machine and in the case of electronic records, software and software documentation, to retrieve, read, and interpret the data. Technological obsolescence, therefore, becomes a crucial issue for records creators and managers but must be dealt with at the stage of planning for new technology.
The Office of the Public Records Administrator and State Archives has produced or has been engaged in efforts to produce usable policies in the areas of optical imaging and electronic communication (e-mail). The office's optical imaging statement is entitled, "Optical Imaging Technology and Public Records: Policy Statement," and can be found online. The office has also issued a policy for the retention of e-mail by state and local governments entitled, "Electronic and Voice Mail, A Management and Retention Guide for State and Municipal Government Agencies." It can be found at the same URL. In addition, the Public Records Administrator has served on a State government committee to establish guidelines and minimum requirements for the acceptable use of state-provided (e-mail) services. The "Electronic Mail Acceptable Use Policy" is available online.
Numerous legal issues have appeared as a result of the creation of electronic records. For many years, for instance, the State of Connecticut did not recognize the legality of electronic signatures, but in 1999 the General Assembly passed Public Act 99-155, "An Act Concerning Electronic Records and Signatures." This bill authorizes the use of electronic signatures on state government records.
Our century inherited the previous millennium's faith in technological development. As our era ends, people are more skeptical than their forbears about the promises made with each new invention. Records Managers, archivists, and librarians are beginning to understand the problems posed by machine-readable records and their long-term implications. This office will continue to look for practical solutions. No one can predict the future, but technological change will continue. The new millennium is here.
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