WITH the far-reaching implications of Covid-19 in the backdrop, leaders in the archives and records management fields were working diligently to provide guidelines on which all agencies should manage records and information for a crisis. In May 2020, the International Council on Archives (ICA) and the International Conference of Information Commissioners, supported by ARMA International, CODATA, Digital Preservation Coalition, Research Data Alliance, UNESCO Memory of the World and World Data System, developed the following statement, “Covid-19: The duty to document does not cease in a crisis, it becomes more essential”.
In a crisis, the immediate response is usually panic and confusion, then in such circumstances there is a tendency to deviate from standard operating procedures. This can lead to an inability to document and preserve those aspects of our business necessary for continuity. However, it is important to document each step of a process or activity, as well as the decisions made, as evidence of an event or transaction for historical, economic, legal or social purposes. For example, records of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic provided insight into the behaviors and patterns prevalent at that time. It gave world leaders access to how things were run – failures and successes – to determine the best approach to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, if medical specialists had not recorded and monitored trends related to symptoms and changes with the Covid-19 virus over time, a vaccine might not have been possible a year after the first case. checked in.
Based on the global experience of this and previous crises, organizations need to be more flexible in their approach to document management. This is particularly important with regard to digitizing records and implementing processes that would facilitate remote working and easy access to records and information. With the shift from a normal working mode to a hybrid working mode over the past two years, the T&T Securities and Exchange Commission (TTSEC), like the rest of the country, has been forced to rethink the existing working model and to adapt to current realities. This involved analyzing, reviewing and adapting the way records and information are captured, stored and made accessible to stakeholders.
Given the agility required of international regulators to respond to the shock, market participants were encouraged to submit files electronically. The TTSEC has facilitated the electronic submission of records and has also changed policies and procedures to facilitate the management of records and information remotely. Relevant TTSEC staff have also been trained on the revised processes and made aware of the new requirements.
Here are some suggested approaches that may be helpful:
1. Decisions must be documented indicating who, where, what, how and why of the matter.
2. All records and data should be secured and retained.
a. All decisions should be communicated through secure channels to all staff and stored in a central location for easy access.
3. If you are working remotely while managing a hybrid archive environment, create a schedule to allow for routine visits to your archive centers to perform facility audits which should include the following:
a. Ensure that air conditioning units are operating at optimum levels and that any temperature changes are observed as they occur, to minimize any long-term impact on recordings.
b. Make sure all alarms and fire extinguishing units are still functional so that in the event of an emergency the organization can be sure that there is some degree of protection for your records.
4. Security, preservation and access to digital content can be facilitated in times of crisis.
a. Consider using an Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) that will provide access to records and information, while facilitating remote administration of records.
b. There should be routine security audits of the EDRMS to ensure that established standards are being met and any observed violations are addressed in a timely manner.
5. Consider revising existing policies or creating new ones to manage recordings created through social media, as well as through web conferencing applications.
6. The value of an archiving system lies in its use, not in its storage. In other words, digitize all your paper files. Storing records in a format that is not easily accessible in a crisis is unnecessary.
7. Finally, make sure your business has a digital transformation strategy that will enable “integration of technology into all areas of your business.”
In conclusion, as we return to work in a forever changed environment, which is recognized globally as Archives and Information Month, let us not forget one of the key lessons of this pandemic experience, which is that ” archives are essential to the continued life of an organization and the archives service is as essential as any other.