Records Management in Iceland

By Gunnlaugsdottir, Johanna | Information Management, October 1999 | Go to article overview

Records Management in Iceland


Gunnlaugsdottir, Johanna, Information Management


There is a growing demand in Iceland for easier access to information. Important developments and changes in records management have occurred in recent years. These developments have opened the eyes of managers within both public and private organizations to the need for quick and secure access to records in any form, old and new. The most important of these changes are the Icelandic government's policy (April 1995) recognizing the information society, the Freedom of Information Law that came into effect January 1997, and the foundation in 1988 of the Icelandic Records Management Association (IRMA).

Iceland, like other countries, has now entered the century of the information society, and the demand for information and records management is constantly growing. Therefore, the government of Iceland has issued The Icelandic Government's Vision of the Information Society, which addresses issues of the information society in an attempt to ensure that all citizens have the right to enjoy full and equal access to information.

In the policy declaration of the Icelandic government of April 23, 1995, the main vision of the future is that Iceland shall be in the forefront of the world's nations in utilizing information technology to improve living conditions and to increase prosperity. To reach this goal, five main objectives are put forward as a foundation for this vision of the future:

1. Icelanders shall have easy access to the information society. Its advantages will be utilized to strengthen democracy and to increase quality of life for the benefit of the public and the Icelandic economy. Information technology will be employed in all fields, whether for innovation, public health, science, the arts, or other aspects of daily life.

2. Complete equality shall be ensured between the public and private sectors in the field of information technology and the information industry. The government will, with the help of information technology, facilitate access to governmental information and services, and will not discriminate between individuals and companies with regard to residence and economic status.

3. Information and telecommunications technologies shall be utilized to improve competitiveness of the Icelandic economy, increase productivity, and proliferate the possibilities of exporting Icelandic inventiveness.

4. The educational system shall be adapted to changed social dynamics. General education as well as continuing education will focus on the advantages of the information society while, at the same time, keeping watch over Iceland's language and culture.

5. Legislation, regulations, and work rules shall be reexamined with respect to information technology to stimulate technological progress and protect the rights of individuals and companies.

The formulation of this policy on the issues of the information society is a permanent developmental project, not a campaign project with a defined beginning and end. Because much of Iceland's information resources reside in records - public and private - the need for records management expertise will be all the greater. Due to rapid changes that will occur in society and in the field of information and communication technology, the policy in this area must be continuously reexamined. The government is aiming high with this policy declaration; only time will tell how successful its implementation will be.

Records Management and the Law

In Iceland, a number of laws and regulations relate to records and the information they contain. Legislation on accounting records, income tax, public administration, and health and safety make demands on organizations to keep certain types of records accessible for specific periods of time. There are three acts, however, which influence directly the management of records of all public organizations.

The National Archives Law of 1985 states that the National Archives shall collect, preserve, and keep accessible all records of national history for the use of government, public agencies, and the public to ensure their interests and rights, and for research over time.

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