Original Research

When rain clouds gather: Digital curation of South African public records in the cloud

Amos Shibambu, Mpho Ngoepe
SA Journal of Information Management | Vol 22, No 1 | a1205 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v22i1.1205 | © 2020 Amos Shibambu, Mpho Ngoepe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 February 2020 | Published: 07 October 2020

About the author(s)

Amos Shibambu, Department of Information Science, Faculty of Arts, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Mpho Ngoepe, Department of Information Science, Faculty of Arts, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Many scholars lament of poor infrastructure for the management and preservation of digital records in the public sector in South Africa. For example, in South Africa, the national archives repository and its subsidiary provincial archives do not have infrastructure to ingest digital records into archival custody. As a result, digital records are left to the creating agencies to manage and preserve. The problem is compounded by the fact that very few public sector organisations in South Africa have procured systems to manage digital records.

Objective: This study investigated whether government departments in South Africa entrust their records to cloud storage. The study asked the questions: How are digital records managed and stored in these organisations? Do government departments entrust their records to the cloud as an alternative storage?

Method: Qualitative data were collected through interviews with purposively chosen chief information officers, records managers and IT managers from public entities that implemented e-government services, as well as officials from the National Archives and Services of South Africa, which is charged with the statutory regulatory role of records management in governmental bodies and the State Information Technology Agency, a public sector Information Communication Technology (ICT) company established in 1999 to consolidate and coordinate the state’s information technology resources.

Results: The key findings suggest that although public servants informally and unconsciously save some records in the cloud, government departments in South Africa are sceptical to entrust their records in the cloud because of a number of reasons such as lack of trust in the cloud storage, jurisdiction, legal implications, privacy and security risks related to Minimum Information Security Standards, as well as lack of policy and legislative framework, specifically regarding cloud storage.

Conclusion: Because of lack of infrastructure for management and preservation of digital records, for the purpose of increased storage and access, this study recommends that government departments should cautiously consider exploring the possibility of storing their records in a trusted digital repository cloud as an interim solution whilst observing legal obligations. As cloud storage is not very prevalent amongst government departments in South Africa, given the present challenges in managing digital records, it would be advantageous to have cloud storage tested rigorously before embarking on the exercise.


Keywords

digital curation; cloud storage; public records; e-government; South Africa.

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