Standards for a Civil Society, Government and Commerce

Tom Worthington FACS HLM

For the course Electronic Document Management

Pocket Government

Australian Government Home Page on .mobi mobile phone Emulator

Combine single sign-on service with accessible documents to provide a whole of government service accessible from a wireless hand held device.

Australian Government Online Service Point already accessible on a mobile phone.

The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (EOI) to develop the Australian Government Online Service Point (AGOSP) Program.

Finance, through the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), seeks to identify and develop an effective approach to the development and integration of online services and infrastructure as part of the Australian Government Online Service Point (AGOSP) Program. This Request for Expressions of Interest (EOI) is the first stage of the process. AGIMO envisages the establishment of a business relationship with organisation(s) that can provide, either directly or as a prime contractor, a solution encompassing systems integration, online service delivery expertise, infrastructure components, and technical and related services that address the needs of the AGOSP Program. ...

From: Online Service Development, Integration, Infrastructure and Related Services for the AGOSP Program, FIN07AGI001, Department of Finance and Administration - AGIMO, 3-Sep-2007

AGOSP is intended to provide services on the web from multiple government agencies:

The enhancements to will include a single sign-on service, allowing people to visit multiple government websites without repeatedly signing in at each; an advanced online forms capability; a multi-agency change of address notification service; and a National Government Services Directory, providing a comprehensive list of all government services (both online and offline).

From: Australian Government Online Service Point (AGOSP) Program, Department of Finance and Administration - AGIMO, 2007

AGOSP will provide benefits to citizens with a unified way to access government services. However, this creates major challenges for electronic document management (EDM), which must operate across agencies. This course will look at how to address those challenges using EDM standards and web technology.

Australian Government agencies are required to meet accessible document standards to allow access to information by the disabled. These standards also make it possible for documents to be displayed on handheld wireless devices, such as smartphones. The Australian Government Online Service Point is already accessible, to a limited extent, from a mobile phone, as can be demonstrated by using a mobile web browser emulator . This course will look at how to enable public servants and citizens to have access to government via such an interface.

The Web for Organisations

... a network of information resources. The Web relies on three mechanisms to make these resources readily available to the widest possible audience:

  1. A uniform naming scheme for locating resources on the Web (e.g., URIs).
  2. Protocols, for access to named resources over the Web (e.g., HTTP).
  3. Hypertext, for easy navigation among resources (e.g., HTML).

From: HTML 4.01 Specification, W3C, December 1999, URL: (emphasis added).

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which develops web specifications (to keep the web together), describes the web as "a network of information resources". The web is built on the Internet, which was in turn built from existing technology standards. These standards are now being used to build interconnected computer systems to run non-profit organisations, companies and governments. The information in these systems needs to be managed for social, business and legal purposes. In a very real sense, the aim is to provide the same types of services for locating, accessing and navigating these organisation information sources in the same way as on the web. Also it is possible to use the web to combine the information resources of government, commercial and non-government bodies into one information source.

Recordkeeping is essential to Government

Recordkeeping is an essential part of every Australian Public Service (APS) employee's job. We all have an obligation to ensure that key decisions and events are recorded in a way that captures the important features of a discussion or decision, presents a faithful and accurate account of the key things that have occurred and can easily be retrieved when needed.

From: Note for file: A report on recordkeeping in the Australian Public Service, Management Advisory Committee 8, Australian Public Service Commission, 31 August 2007, URL:

In 2007 a report on recordkeeping in the Australian Public Service by the Management Advisory Committee 8 (MAC8) emphasised the need for recordkeeping in Australian government agencies. The report detaisl the nature of records,use and disclosure obligations and cites standards and guidelines for recrodkeeping.

Records Include Documents

… record means a document (including any written or printed material) or object (including a sound recording, coded storage device, magnetic tape or disc, microform, photograph, film, map, plan or model or a painting or other pictorial or graphic work) that is, or has been, kept by reason of any information or matter that it contains or can be obtained from it or by reason of its connection with any event, person, circumstance or thing...

From: Note for file: A report on recordkeeping in the Australian Public Service, Management Advisory Committee 8, Australian Public Service Commission, 31 August 2007, URL:

The "MAC8 report" provided definitions for a record. Previously different information professions, such as librarians, records managers and computer programmers have offered different definitions of records, documents, databases and the electronic versions of these. However, the developments of the web and its technology and its common use has resulted in a convergence of many of these terms. Essentially records are documents kept for a purpose.

E-Documents Are Documents

  1. ... The ordinary dictionary meaning of "document" is a printed or written paper containing information. ... No violence is done to the object or language of s 418(3) by holding that "document" includes information that is stored in a computer or a fax machine and which can be printed out by pressing one or more keys or buttons. No reason appears for thinking that Parliament intended to distinguish between information stored on paper and information stored in the electronic impulses of a computer that can be printed on paper by pressing a key or keys on the computer's keyboard. ...

From: "Muin v Refugee Review Tribunal; Lie v Refugee Review Tribunal", 8 August 2002, High Court of Australia,

In 2003 the High Court of Australia decided that the definition of documents in the Migration Act included electronic documents.

Documents Require Context

  1. "Documents" may include electronic documents: ... Today, in ordinary speech, one can readily refer to a "document" in a database, although such a document may never have been reduced to tangible form. Typically, a database will yield information that appears in paginated format....

  2. ... Merely making such "documents" (or some of them) "available" in a mass of undifferentiated material in a database of constantly changing content does not comply with the language and particular design of the Act ...

From: "Muin v Refugee Review Tribunal; Lie v Refugee Review Tribunal", 8 August 2002, High Court of Australia,

The High Court decided that providing access to a mass of undifferentiated material in a database does not provide access to "documents". The specific information needs to be identified is some way. Identifiying such documents is the task of electronic document management.

Electronic document management

Electronic document management systems are more than just systems for tracking the location of electronic documents. Such systems should manage documents for their complete life cycle based on the value of the document to the agency's business. Just as there are standard procedures for the registration of paper documents and records, suitable procedures should be implemented to manage each electronic document throughout its life from creation to disposal...

From: Improving Electronic Document Management: Guidelines for Australian Government Agencies, Office of Government Information Technology, 1995, Archive copy at URL:

Electronic Document Management allows legally recognised documents to be created, transmitted and stored. Without electronic document management, transactions would be buried under mounds of paper documenting the transactions, or be tied up in litigation over the authenticity of the electronic originals.

In 1995 an Australian government interdepartmental committee, chaired by the author, made recommendations for electronic document management in Australian government agencies.

The recommendations in the Australian report are similar to those in later guidelines from Australia, Europe and the USA. Exercises for this unit explore the details of the EDM requirements. Later units of this course will look at how web technology can be used to satisfy thopse requrrements.

More Information

Slides for these notes are also available.

Copyright © 2007 (version of 17 October 2007)Tom Worthington

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