The impact of information culture on information/records managementby Proscovia Svärd

Records Management Journal

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Year
2014
DOI
10.1108/RMJ-04-2013-0007
Subject
Library and Information Sciences / Management Information Systems

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The impact of information culture on information/records management

A case study of a municipality in Belgium

Proscovia Sva¨rd

Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this article is to examine the information culture of a medium-sized municipality in Belgium. Public information/records is/are one of the most important instruments of citizens’ control of public authorities. The principle of Public Access gives citizens a right to access public records, while the Privacy Act protects the integrity of the citizens. Municipalities are institutions that intensely interact with the citizens. Therefore, the way they handle the information that is generated during this interaction is of crucial importance to the efficient service delivery, safeguarding the rights of the citizens that they serve and for sustaining the open governance structure that promotes the principles of accountability and transparency.

Design/methodology/approach – The author employed a case study approach in order to establish the attitudes and norms the organizational employees had towards the management of information/records. She also applied the information culture assessment framework developed by

Oliver during the design of the research questions.

Findings – Information culture affects the way public information/records are managed. Though investments are being made in information systems to facilitate the capture and management of information/records, the people issues are equally as crucial. E-Government development will require an information culture that promotes effective creation, use and management of information, if its goal of efficient and transparent public administrations is to be achieved.

Originality/value – The originality of this study lies in the application of the information culture assessment framework that was developed by Oliver. The framework facilitates the formulation of questions using its three layers to tease out the information required by a researcher in an attempt to draw conclusions regarding the attitudes, norms and the value the interviewees attach to information/records.

Keywords Organizational culture, Culture, e-Government, Information culture,

Information/records management, Record

Paper type Case study 1. Introduction

This paper examines the information culture in a medium-sized municipality in

Belgium. The way information is managed has consequences for service delivery.

Information is viewed as the currency or fuel that drives today’s organizations (Feldman and Villars, 2006). It is dynamic, creates great value and is seen as the “glue” that holds organizations together (Bantin, 2008). Information plays a major role for

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0956-5698.htm

The author would like to acknowledge the support of the Archivist of the Municipality where the author carried out this research and all the participants who were willing to share their knowledge.

Impact of information culture 5

Received 9 April 2013

Revised 5 November 2013

Accepted 5 November 2013

Records Management Journal

Vol. 24 No. 1, 2014 pp. 5-21 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0956-5698

DOI 10.1108/RMJ-04-2013-0007 both business purposes and democratic developments. In democratic countries it enhances the accountability of public authorities. Municipalities are institutions that intensely interact with the citizens. This interaction generates a lot of public information. Therefore, the way the municipalities handle the information generated during this interaction, is of crucial importance to the efficient delivery of services, safe guarding the rights of the citizens that they serve, and for sustaining their open governance structure. Municipalities are therefore required to create, organize, manage, use and preserve their records according to the laws governing public information. In Belgium, access to municipal records is guaranteed by constitution. Article 32 of the Constitution was amended in 1993 to include a right of access to records held by the government:

Everyone has the right to consult any administrative document and to have a copy made, except in the cases and conditions stipulated by the laws, decrees, or rulings referred to in

Article 134[1].

There are also Public Access and Privacy Acts which promote access to public information/records and also, protect the integrity of the individuals.

The increased demand by citizens for efficient service delivery from public sector organizations has implications for the information that underpins those services (Torres et al., 2005). Robust and effective information management is required. To address the need for more services and for more efficient service delivery, most governments are promoting e-Government initiatives which have the use of information technology at their core. The increase in the channels through which citizens interact with the municipalities requires information and records management strategies that will capture the information generated as well as the records that are created through these various interactions. Information management systems have been deployed to help with the capture, management, organization and use of the records. “People issues” are often left out of the equation, but are proving to be a substantial obstacle to the successful implementation of these systems (McLeod et al., 2011). There is an assumption in some organizations that since we are all document creators, we are equally good records managers. This assumption is not promoting effective information management. It is argued by information culture researchers that the attitudes, norms and the value employees of an organization put on information all have an impact on business efficiency. This is what is referred to as “information culture” (Ginman, 1993; Choo et al., 2008; Oliver, 2008; Douglas, 2010).