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The impact of the UK Freedom of Information Act on records management Dr Elizabeth Shepherd Department of Information Studies, University College London.

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Presentation on theme: "The impact of the UK Freedom of Information Act on records management Dr Elizabeth Shepherd Department of Information Studies, University College London."— Presentation transcript:

1 The impact of the UK Freedom of Information Act on records management Dr Elizabeth Shepherd Department of Information Studies, University College London

2 fully into force in January 2005 most important UK legislation to include records management guidance for all public authorities know what information they hold; deal within 20 days with FOI requests; disseminate information through a ‘publication scheme’ UK Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000

3 Code of Practice on Records Management “Freedom of information legislation is only as good as the quality of the records and other information to which it provides access. Such rights are of little use if reliable records are not created in the first place, if they cannot be found when needed or if the arrangements for their eventual destruction or transfer to an archives service are inadequate.”

4 Research project Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a year, What has been the impact of the FOIA on records management in public authorities, especially local government, in the UK? three perspectives: records managers, FOI policy managers, FOI requestors and user communities

5 Research objectives 1.how well records management services prepared for and coped with the first three years of FOI implementation 2.what contribution records management services make to the ability of public authorities to comply with the FOI Act 3.how the user experience of FOI is affected by the management of records 4.what the implications are of FOI so far for good practice in records management.

6 Research method Data collection: 22 semi-structured interviews with 27 officers responsible for FOI and/or records management in 19 local authorities in London and south east of England (county, unitary, city and London borough) Data collection: a focus group and 11 interviews with requestors Data analysis: NVIVO 7

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8 Government policy context Modernising Government 1999 e-government target of all government services available electronically by 2005 Local Government Act 1999 community engagement Audit Commission review of e-government implementation in England 2002

9 Literature review issues sustainability of e-government agenda: physical (people, finance and technical infrastructure) & non-physical resources (skill, plans and strategies) over-emphasis on ‘front-end’ systems (eg website) “It is easy to create a records management policy…It is far harder to convince staff that they should cease filing their information locally and managing it according to their own ways and should embrace new, shared ways of working”

10 Background Amos et al FOI 2000 and local government in 2007: The experience of local authorities in England. London: Constitution Unit, UCL.

11 Background Amos et al FOI 2000 and local government in 2007: The experience of local authorities in England. London: Constitution Unit, UCL.

12 Interpreting the impact “ It ’ s more high profile, but the actual way we do things hasn ’ t changed ” “ It ’ s probably made awareness of RM. You go round and people realize there ’ s a need, but it ’ s just there ’ s never enough time or money to actually get good RM in lots of teams. ” “ AS: So there hasn ’ t been much change in RM as a result of FOI in this council? X: There has been a change in so far as we have brought in training and raised awareness ” “ I mean what ’ s changed is the intention to address that I think and to do so on a corporate basis ”

13 Coping with FOI “We haven’t had, or at least to my knowledge we haven’t had something which is dependent upon version control. It only needs one or two people who understand the FOI game probably to cause havoc and mayhem. Luckily we haven’t actually encountered that… with journalists they will take what they’re given because they’ve got a copy deadline to produce some article”. “At the moment we are relying a lot on trust and people say ‘oh I wrote this, it is the only version’, which we provide and send out, and we just don’t have the resources to call their bluff on it.

14 Coping with FOI “ My guess is that the quality of what we are providing – we might answer a request – but the quality of what we are providing on the whole is not good because of RM. If we had better RM the quality would be better because you will be sure the documents you are providing will be the latest one. ”

15 An increasingly important role for RM? “The other thing, in addition to what appears to be a broad increase in the number of requests, however they are logged, the complexity has increased… a lot more detailed as well. “

16 Knowledge Management “a lot is not stored in a records management document manager. It is still stored on servers that are unique to each directorate or unit or service so we have to chase humans to get access to the information.”

17 Complexity of the Context Relative position of RM and FOI in the organisation Roles and responsibilities: electronic vs paper Departmental perceptions of RM and FOI E-government and technology Data security Organisation of employment Space/Accommodation Business efficiency

18 Dr Elizabeth Shepherd Dr Alice Stevenson The impact of the UK Freedom of Information Act on records management


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