Monash works to streamline e-government data

Monash University's school of information management and systems wants to improve the use of meta data within electronic recordkeeping systems.

The school has embarked on a three-year project in order to boost the quality of information and reduce administration overhead.

Professor Sue McKemmish, the school's head, told Computerworld that standards exist at a state and federal level for the use of meta data for information management and retrieval but "there are major implementation issues".

“The project is concerned with electronic recordkeeping in support of e-government and e-business processes. It relates to a framework of meta data standards to ensure the creation and maintenance of quality records to support business processes, and accountability, and aims for better functionality through automated meta data creation and interchange,” McKemmish said. "We need to demonstrate smart use of meta data across applications. Now, in every application meta data is created from scratch and very little is re-used or inherited. We are addressing interoperability so that meta data is automatically captured and available for automated re-use. Smart meta data is created once, then used many times for multiple purposes."

Funded to the tune of $500,000 by the Australian Research Council and partners – including the National Archives of Australia, State Records of NSW, the Society of Australian Archivists, the University of California Los Angeles, and Monash University, the Clever Recordkeeping Metadata Project is part of the Enterprise Information Research Group at Monash. A team of seven researchers is working on the project.

"The project's initial main deliverable is a proof-of-concept prototype to show how meta data relating to recordkeeping can be automatically captured, shared and re-used, or re-purposed, into other e-business applications," McKemmish said. "It will show how to draw meta data from native systems into records management applications, rather than re-create it within those systems. It will also show how the meta data in records management applications can be made available to other systems."

McKemmish used an example of when a Word document is created and later stored, any meta data created with it is not necessarily translated into a records management application.

"This will go a long way to streamlining government and business administration processes," she said. "There are barriers due to lack of methods and tools to share meta data between systems. This will enable records management to do its job better and deliver better quality e-government and e-business processes and information."

Although McKemmish did not offer an estimate as to the potential cost savings of effective use of meta data, she said the tangible benefits will address "how costly and people-resource-intensive processes of creating and re-creating metadata are".

"In order to conform to the AGLS [Australian Government Locator Service] national standard for meta data records for resource discovery on the Internet, a lot of organizations create this meta data from scratch too," she said. "The primary concern is to enable people to work cleverly with meta data and standards. By using focus groups and an agile programming approach, the project will involve iteratively developing tools and software to help that happen. The aim is to influence software development in alignment with the strategies and guidelines that will come out of the prototype."

The team will be working closely with international standards for recordkeeping and its work will be incorporated in their further development.

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