Digital continuity

What is digital continuity?

Digital continuity is an approach to keeping and managing digital information to ensure that it can be used in the way that is required, for as long as required and no longer. 1

'Digital continuity ensures information is complete, available and usable by those with a need for it. It also ensures the information is not kept for longer than needed. Information is usable when you can:

  • find it when you need it
  • open it when you need it
  • work with it in the way you need to
  • understand what it is and what it is about, and
  • trust that it is what it says it is.' 2

Why is digital continuity important?

Government information is both a valuable national resource and a key business asset. For government agencies, information is fundamental to the efficient, effective, transparent and accountable conduct of government business.

For more than a decade, government policy has preferred that services and information be provided to citizens by digital means. Recent policy initiatives such as the Declaration of Open Government and legislative changes are accelerating the requirement. Many government agencies have been using office productivity software and business systems for over 20 years, so creation and internal use of digital information has been mainstream in most agencies for a considerable time.

Effective digital information management improves business outcomes through a range of benefits and other efficiencies, it increases efficiency, improves accountability and legal compliance, and reduces risk.

Digital Transition Policy requirements

The Australian Government Digital Transition Policy introduced in July 2011 identifies the need to manage government information in digital formats. This covers all forms of business information spanning the full range of technologies and formats. It also highlights the need to actively manage the information throughout its life, which may extend beyond the life of any one system.

In accordance with the policy, the National Archives, in consultation with other agencies, has developed a Digital Continuity Plan that provides practical guidance on managing digital information over time. The Digital Continuity Plan is based on six Digital Continuity Principles. The Digital Continuity Plan includes key actions aimed at achieving three digital continuity outcomes. An overview for agency heads is also available. Feedback on the plan and its implementation or the related material is welcome and can be sent to recordkeeping@naa.gov.au.

Digital continuity focuses on ongoing management of information that is already digital. Digital transition addresses the transition of information from paper and other physical formats to digital formats. Both are important aspects of the policy.

Elements of digital continuity

The elements of digital continuity - flow chart

The relationship between the elements of digital continuity. The digital continuity principles lead to the digital continuity outcomes. Implementing the plan will help your agency achieve the digital continuity outcomes. Practical guidance on aspects of digital continuity is also provided as a part of the plan.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014