Magazine article Information Today

Avoiding a Digital Dark Age: The Governance of Long-Term Digital Information

Magazine article Information Today

Avoiding a Digital Dark Age: The Governance of Long-Term Digital Information

Article excerpt

In the last 12 months, the issue of information governance has been making its way toward the top of the C-suite agenda. Heeding the warning last year from Google VP Vint Cerf of a looming digital dark age, a growing number of large corporations have been taking a hard look at the governance of their long-term digital information-and with good cause, since an inability to produce important digital records when required could have serious consequences in the years to come.

In February, we observed Global Information Governance Day, which was designed to raise awareness of an increasingly critical issue for modern organizations, especially where digital information is concerned. With technology refresh happening ever more rapidly, digital files that are older than 10 years, or are required to be retained for more than 10 years, are already at substantial risk. Without a thorough information governance and digital preservation strategy, these files may not be findable, readable, usable, or trustworthy within the near future, leaving corporations exposed to substantial fines, loss of reputation, and competitive disadvantage when they fail to meet regulatory and compliance requirements.

Building long-term digital preservation into the information governance lifecycle is proving increasingly important for modern multinationals. However, the need to properly safeguard long-term digital records still must be elevated up the C-suite agenda.

A Lack of Understanding Is Still the Greatest Barrier

This is underscored by research from the Information Governance Initiative's (IGI) "Annual Report 2015-2016." It lists lack of understanding of information governance within companies as the greatest barrier to progress-an alarming shortcoming when considering that the primary drivers for information governance were external regulatory, compliance, and legal issues, as well as external triggers such as lawsuits and investigations. In addition, a majority of businesses needed to retain digital records for longer than 10 years, and yet only a small percentage had systems and strategies in place to ensure that these digital records would be readable and usable in the future.

Part of the issue is that digital preservation is often associated with heritage and historical materials, but the real need for the technology is far broader and equally, if not more, important for safeguarding business records. The threat of the digital dark age doesn't just mean the loss of your photos on Facebook, it could also result in lost share value due to being unable to defend a patent or prove provenance of intellectual and business property, as well as the inability to reuse knowledge for competitive advantage once older files become obsolete. Failure to produce digital records when required can result in substantial fines, and neglect of the proper protocols can have serious consequences for the C-suite individuals who are responsible for them too-in some cases, even prison sentences.

The onset of the pending digital dark age is approaching faster than many appreciate, and awareness of the risk to digital information among some organizations remains worryingly low. It is far from posing a problem 100 years from now, as business leaders could find themselves faced with a shortfall within the next decade. …

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