Information Governance, Digital Technologies, and Climate Action
Inside the climate emergency, organizations are reconsidering how the life cycle of hardware, software, and information are evaluated. My research focuses on digital storage management and I collaborate with record managers, archivists, and technologists to identify ways to reduce the carbon footprint of physical and digital storage.
(Report coming soon)
Leveraging information governance and digital technologies for climate action : an inquiry into records retention and disposition in Canadian organizations.
Deluge, flood, tsunami, and perfect storm describe the exponential increase in records, data, and information resulting from the expansion of ubiquitous computing. As a result of digital transformation, global storage capacity is expected to increase from 8 zettabytes in 2021 to around 16 zettabytes by 2025, leading to ominous predictions about the impact of information and communication technology not only on society, but on the environment. Archival science is the discipline guiding the management of records that document organizations’ activities and ensure accountability, transparency, and the protection of rights over time; the function of retention and disposition represents the phase of the records lifecycle during which decisions are made regarding how long records are kept, if at all. The practical inquiry research on which this dissertation is based investigated the current state of retention and disposition in the Canadian context, using data collected during 35 interviews at 26 organizations in 10 cities. The findings indicate that records managers and archivists are increasingly occupied with legacy paper records and often lack the resources to fully address the lifecycle management of digital materials, while information technologists are replacing ground they’ve lost in network administration with business analysis. As a result, there are increasing areas of overlap and competition between these professions. Participants who successfully responded to digital transformation leveraged integrated governance and cooperative projects to reach across organizational structures, clarify roles and responsibilities, and resolve internal politics. While continuing to use proven recordkeeping processes to manage the increasing amounts of paper pushed out of business areas due to reduced real estate and no-growth government initiatives, successful participants developed new skills to manage multiple, dispersed digital repositories using emergent and dynamic solutions, including the critical records approach; fast-track deletion; configuration, automation, and artificial intelligence; and storage consolidation, innovation, and elimination. Although the participants saw themselves as removed from climate action and were largely unaware of the roles they might play, given significant and embedded organizational support for climate action, the participants could more creatively leverage climate-conscious strategies to advance their mandates and mitigate the environmental impacts of digital transformation.