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20
DigiCULT
U
ndercurrents at some stretches of the
Atlantic coast are so strong that people
only venture into the water while holding
hands with each other.That image springs to mind
when you hear Dr Ulrich Kampffmeyer talk about
the digital flood that threatens to drown us. `Unless',
he says, `the ICT industry and the public sector are
able to co-operate in developing solutions for docu-
ment life cycle management. A life cycle, that not
only comprises the generation and use, but also the
long-term availability, and the guaranteed authentici-
ty of documents.'
Dr Kampffmeyer is director of PROJECT CON-
SULT, a consulting company for both industry and
the public sector, in the area of document related
technology. He is also member of the board of
AIIM, the Association for Image and Information
Management, and chairs the ICT-committee of
DLM, an abbreviation that used to stand for
`Donnees lisible par machine' (machine readable
data), but has been changed to `Document Lifecycle
Management', representing the wider scope of the
subject. DLM-forum is a network initiated by the
European Commission, to stimulate co-operation
and technology development in archiving.
According to Kampffmeyer, the traditional pro-
blems of archiving, are the kilometres of paper docu-
ments, whose integrity is threatened by their fragility
and a fading consistency. `These problems seem small
when compared to the archiving problems created
by the use of new technology', he says. `The volume
of information is growing at an unprecedented pace.
We already produce more information per year than
we did in the whole period since we descended from
the trees. A lot of this information is digital only,
meaning it has no physical representation.That makes
it much more volatile.An XML-document for instance
is created while you view it. So how do you keep it?'
Although generating volatile information, govern-
ments want to use these technologies to make their
policies more transparent. Everyone must have access
to our books, comments Romano Prodi, the presi-
dent of the European Commission. He is not alone;
even the authorities of the smallest village want to
be accessible to its citizens via Internet and email.
Kampffmeyer: `A lot of projects are put into gear on
all levels of government, and most of them will fail,
I'm afraid. Firstly, because the new transparency can-
not be created by technology alone; a fundamental
change in the administrative organisation is needed.
Secondly, because there is not enough money provi-
ded. Ill-defined projects are tendered and awarded to
companies offering the lowest price.Which, is of
course no guarantee for success.'
`Thirdly', Kampffmeyer continues, `the technology
is not ripe yet, in the sense that it cannot live
up to the demands of good governance.
You can create electronic documents and
you can keep them in an electronic
archive. But, for example, an electronic
signature to authenticate a document is
invalid after three years; the migration of
data and the accompanying loss is
still an unsolved problem,
and the history of elec-
tronic records can be tam-
pered with quite easily.
People from the indu-
stry can show you a
nice graphic or run a
nice project, but that is
not the point.The point
is, that technology has
to be embedded in
organisations and pro-
cedures, and that is cer-
tainly not the case yet.'
According to Kampffmeyer, the technology is still
in its infancy, or, as he puts it, `at the beginning of its
life cycle'. `Archives of physical documents have been
in existence for over 6000 years, whereas, electronic
documents have only been around for the last twen-
ty years, or so.The people who develop the techno-
logies, haven't made the mental transition yet, from
creating and using a document to the long term
availability of that same document.'
To mature, the technology has to be fostered, not
only by companies but also by the public sector. `The
industrial approach is always one-dimensional', he
says. `When there is a demand, they look for techni-
cal ways to fulfil that. If the public sector goes on
issuing ill-defined projects it becomes a downward
spiral of failure and frustration.The sensible thing to
do is to try and develop standards, predefined
structures, metadata and interchangeable formats,
through co-operation between the public sector and
industry. Not on a local or national level, but on an
European and international level. Only through co-
operation and co-ordination, can we realise the goal
that "electronic archives are the memory of the
information society", as Commissioner Erkki
Liikanen has put it.'
Only co-operation can prevent us from drowning
Interview
with Ulrich
Kampffmeyer,
PROJECT
CONSULT,
Germany
by
Joost van Kasteren
Photo: Project Consult