Public record institutions across Australia and New Zealand will spend more than $6 million establishing a massive digital library that will be used as an international standards benchmark.
Established by the National Archives of Australia (NAA), the Digital Recordkeeping Initiative is a think-tank for the development and delivery of an industry-wide set of rules for making, using and storing digital records.
The National Archives of Australia will pull together resources and expertise to find the best ways to preserve digital records and standardize the technologies used for updating, upgrading and storing data.
Moreover, the NAA has proposed $2 million per year for the project, which is expected to take three to four years to complete.
Currently the archives office uses the standardized extensible markup language (XML) which converts text from e-mails, spreadsheets and word-processor documents from commercial software programs to the stable, long-term XML format.
Australia and Norway are the only countries using the XML format to maintain accuracy of data storage. Experiments into the technology are still being conducted in the US.
NAA preservation director Stephen Ellis said hundreds and thousands of government employees will be using the archive service and if the recordkeeping software is picked up by vendors then millions could eventually be using the archival service.
"Any data stored on a medium is exposed to chemical and physical forces and is always vulnerable; hard drives are susceptible to deterioration and technology becomes obsolete. We are not asserting the data will last forever but the new format will provide assured access for 25 to 30 years," he said.
National Archives Centre director Ross Gibbs said the best way to store data was in a single, stable format such as XML.
Once the records are stored in a stable format copies could be made available to the public online.