Implementation of Digital Continuity in the Australian Government, August 2016

Report to
Senator the Hon George Brandis QC
Attorney General

Executive summary

This is the first report under the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy issued in October 2015 by the National Archives of Australia (Archives) under the Archives Act 1983. Three reports on progress towards digital information management in the Australian Government were provided from 2011 to 2014 under the Commonwealth's whole-of-government Digital Transition Policy, which was introduced in July 2011 and led by the Archives in consultation with the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

The Archives plays a crucial information management role across government. The Archives' leadership of the Digital Transition Policy and Digital Continuity 2020 Policy presents an opportunity to extend the influence of information governance and digital information management to underpin the Government’s digital transformation agenda and support transparency and accountability in government.

The Digital Continuity 2020 Policy aims to integrate robust information management into all business processes to optimise government programs and services, enable information reuse for economic and social benefits and protect the rights and entitlements of Australians.

The policy builds on progress made under the Digital Transition Policy. The number of agencies working digitally by default has increased by 44 per cent over the period from 2010 to 2015, with 74 per cent of agencies reporting they currently manage most records digitally. This percentage is expected to increase with the policy requirement that any records created digitally after 2015 will only be accepted by the Archives in digital formats. The move to digital information management has also reduced the cost of storing physical records by $94 million per annum across government with agencies reporting the annual cost of storing physical records in 2015 as $126 million, compared to $220 million in 2010.

There has also been strong improvement in digital transition over the past 12 months, with the percentage of agencies stating they are performing well increasing by 10 per cent, and the percentage who are only beginning their transition to digital information management decreasing proportionately. Less than 36 per cent of agencies are now in the early stages of digital transition, while almost 6 per cent state they are optimising the benefits of fully digital information management. A further 59 per cent have transformed some business processes and are managing most records digitally.

While progress has been made in digital information management, there is still room for improvement, particularly in the areas of retention and migration of digital information, and in optimising the cost-benefits of managing information digitally. As the Learning from Failure [Shergold] Report asserts, Government cannot be complacent about the risks involved in poor information management. Agencies need to take action over the next four years and beyond to ensure they achieve the highest levels of information maturity. It is the Archives' responsibility to take all necessary steps to assist agencies in their progress towards digital information continuity by 2020.

1. Introduction

Information governance and effective digital information management are central to the Government's digital transformation agenda. Through its lead role in implementing the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy, the Archives is providing a foundation for digital transformation across the Australian Government.

The National Archives is an Executive Agency within the Attorney-General's portfolio and was established under the Archives Act 1983. Its role is to promote the creation, management and preservation of Commonwealth information and records and to facilitate Australians' access to the national archival collection, which reflects our heritage and identity. Under the Act, 'Commonwealth records' covers all information in digital and non-digital formats that is created, used or received as part of Government business.

The Archives works with Australian Government agencies to achieve the common goal of reliable and secure information that is available to meet the needs of Government and the community for as long as required. Through the development and provision of strategic direction, standards, and advice, the Archives provides the foundations to ensure the Australian Government is transparent and accountable, makes informed decisions and protects the rights and entitlements of stakeholders.

As required by the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy, this report to you is based on annual surveys of information management in agencies and outlines progress towards digital continuity. It identifies achievements in information management capability and performance as well as areas for improvements and outlines the steps the Archives is taking to drive change in information management practices across the Australian Government.

2. The current environment

Government information is a key government asset and a valuable national resource. It underpins the digital economy and is an enabler for e-Government.

Digital information can be readily reused, repurposed, analysed and shared for economic and social benefits. Ready access to reliable and relevant information also enables better decision-making, faster service delivery and increased innovation. Effective digital information management in agencies complements the work of the Digital Transformation Office to make government information and services easier for citizens to find, use and consume.

Digital information governance delivers substantial benefits in efficiency, effectiveness and accountability to organisations. Compliance costs are reduced and the ability to provide accurate, timely and transparent responses to legislative and regulatory requirements is enhanced. Digital business processes also provide substantial productivity benefits over paper processes. They are quicker and more cost-effective, and enable evidence of decisions and transactions to be captured as part of the business process. However, to realise the full potential of a digital, networked economy, government information needs to be managed effectively and efficiently in digital formats throughout its life.

The value of effective digital information management for efficiency and productivity gains in government has been highlighted in a number of recent whole-of-Australian Government reports. These reports indicate a need for clear and consistent whole-of-government information management policies and practices to enable streamlined, efficient delivery of government services and programs. This is demonstrated particularly by the recommendations in the Independent Review of Whole-of-Government Internal Regulation (Belcher Red Tape Review), and Learning from Failure [Shergold] Report.

The need for information to be open, available and readily accessible to support accountability as well as engagement with Australian citizens has been demonstrated by the recommendations in the Inquiry into the Role of Smart ICT in the Design and Planning of Infrastructure report as well as in the development of the National Action Plan for Australia’s membership in the Open Government Partnership.

3. Digital Transition Policy and Digital Continuity 2020 Policy

Assistant-Director General Anne Lyons, Department of Finance Secretary Jane Halton and Director-General David Fricker at the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy Launch, October 2015

2015 marked significant progress in the transition to digital information management with the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy being launched by the Secretary of the Department of Finance, Ms Jane Halton AO PSM in October 2015.

The Digital Continuity 2020 Policy builds on the Australian Government's Digital Transition Policy (2011-2015) which aimed to drive transition to effective digital information management across Government for efficiency purposes. The Digital Transition Policy required agencies to transition from paper-based to digital information management. The Digital Continuity 2020 Policy provides a roadmap for agencies to achieve fully digital information management and associated productivity and efficiency gains by embedding information governance into corporate governance to ensure government information is valued as an asset and integrated into digital business processes.

The Digital Continuity 2020 Policy was issued by the Archives under the Archives Act. The Policy aims to integrate robust information management into all business processes to:

  • optimise government programs and services;
  • enable information reuse for economic and social benefits; and
  • protect the rights and entitlements of Australians.

The Policy requires improvements in four key domains of digital information management by the end of 2020:

  1. Agencies will develop and implement a comprehensive information governance framework. This includes a strategic, multi-disciplinary approach to managing information at an organisational level to ensure regulatory, business and accountability requirements are met. It means that information management will be embedded into all areas of corporate governance in agencies including risk management, security, compliance and accountability.
  2. Government information will be interoperable to facilitate information sharing and re-use, promote efficiency and enable open data initiatives. Interoperability will be based on standards for functionality in systems, formats and metadata.
  3. Business processes will be digital from end to end. Business decisions will be made and recorded digitally, using digital authorisations and workflows.
  4. Agencies will meet standard information management professionalism and capability levels set by the Archives.

The Policy identifies the targets that agencies should reach by 2020. All targets are expected to be achieved as part of normal business reviews and ongoing technology maintenance and investment cycles. The Archives assists agencies by providing implementation pathways, interim milestones and supporting products, tools and advice.

Agencies report annually to the Archives on their information management capability and practices and in turn the Archives reports annually to Government to outline progress towards achieving digital continuity, and make recommendations for improvements.

4. Progress

Two online surveys were undertaken during the 2015-16 financial year to gather data on agencies’ digital information management capability and performance, and progress towards digital transition.

These were:

  • Check-up Digital –This annual survey enables Australian Government agencies to gauge their digital information management maturity and sets clear direction for improved digital practices. Agencies self-rate each capability on a five-point maturity scale1. The most recent survey was completed in late 2015.
  • Information and Records Management Practices in Australian Government Agencies – This survey is conducted every three years and gathers details on agency information management practices including creation, capture, storage and disposal. It complements the maturity model of the Check-up Digital tool by gathering figures and statistics including those relating to quantities and costs. The most recent survey was completed in early 2016.

Participation in Check-up Digital is mandatory under the Digital Transition Policy, while it is on an opt-in basis for the three-yearly survey. Response rates in 2015 were:

  • 99% for Check-up Digital (169 agencies)
  • 87% for the three-yearly survey (158 agencies).

4.1.1. Check-up Digital 2015

Agencies have continued to develop their digital information management capabilities in 2015 but with still more to do. 2015 Check-up Digital results indicate good improvement from 2014 with the percentage of agencies who stated they were performing well across all capabilities increasing by 10%, and the percentage who are only beginning their transition to digital information management decreasing proportionately, as indicated by Figure 1:

Figure 1: Agency-reported improvements in capability maturity overall from 2014 to 2015

Agency-reported improvements in capability maturity overall from 2014 to 2015


Improvement in capabilities across the three main areas (optimising business outcomes, addressing risk, managing business systems) is also evidenced by the average rating for each capability increasing slightly from 2014 to 2015, as shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Average rating increase in the three main capability areas from 2014 to 2015.

Section2014 average rating2015 average ratingChange

Optimising business outcomes



Addressing risk



Improves findability and accessibility




Figure 3 provides a graph of all agencies ranked by their average maturity rating. The list of agencies is provided at Appendix 1. Agencies in the lowest third are only beginning their development of digital information management capabilities, with average scores below or equal to 2.5. While agencies in the middle third have made some progress, they also still have significant scope to further improve their capabilities in 2016. The highest third, with average scores of 3.1 or higher (and 13 agencies (8%), above 4) includes several agencies which are potential sources of exemplar practices for other agencies.

The Archives is further analysing the Check-up Digital data to identify the enablers for the top-performing agencies, to gain more understanding of the drivers of low maturity, and to develop targeted advice and assistance.

Figure 3: Distribution of agencies by average score, 2015

Average rating out of 5, One third of agencies have an average score greater than 3.3, One third have an average score less or equal to 2.5

Note: Average score is calculated as the mean rating across all 18 capabilities for the agency. SOURCE: ACIL ALLEN CONSULTING ANALYSIS OF CHECK-UP DIGITAL DATA


Senior support of digital information management and digital system implementation remained the strongest achievements across the whole of government for 2015. This indicates continued strong momentum for digital maturity across many agencies and is illustrated by the following capabilities being the most mature2:

  • 82.4% of agencies have indicated that their digital information is available for use and protected from unforeseen loss (average score 3.3, up from 3.1 in 2014)
  • 81.9% of agencies have senior management that supports digital information management as a priority (average score 3.3, up from 3.1 in 2014)
  • 73.9% of agencies are working digitally by default (average score 3.1, up from 2.8).

The greatest improvement across government was for the management of digital information in collaborative spaces and social media for which the average score across all agencies increased from 2.4 in 2014 to 2.8 in 2015, indicating an increased awareness across agencies of the need to manage information created on these platforms. Social media is often hosted on third party platforms and without proper information governance, this valuable information can be lost.

Areas for attention

Across the whole of government, the primary areas for attention relate to retention and migration of digital information and the consideration of digital information management costs and benefits in business decision-making. Poor retention and migration processes can lead to the loss of valuable government information, while not considering the cost-benefits of digital information can deny an agency significant gains in efficiency and productivity.

The 2015 data indicates that3:

  • 58.2% of agencies are not ready to transfer digital information to the Archives (average score 2.4)
  • 39.4% of agencies business decisions are not being informed and influenced by digital information management costs and benefits (average score 2.6)
  • 46.1% of agencies are not adequately managing their digital information’s retention, migration or destruction (average score 2.6).

The average scores for these capabilities did however increase by 0.2 points from 2014 ratings, showing that there has been improvement across the board. The Archives will continue to identify strategies to improve these capabilities across government, as well as engage with individual agencies that require targeted advice and assistance to improve their digital information management maturity.

4.1.2. Agency survey 2016

The Agency survey has been conducted approximately every 3 years since 2008 allowing for comparisons to be made prior to, and after the introduction of the Digital Transition Policy. Data provided by agencies indicates that substantial improvements in digital information management have been made. In particular:

  • A decrease in the cost across the Commonwealth of storing physical records of $94 million per annum. In 2016 agencies reported the annual cost of storing physical records was $126 million, compared to $220 million in 20104.
  • An increase of 44% over 6 years in the number of agencies managing records digitally. In 2016, 74% of agencies reported they had transitioned to digital information management compared to 30% of agencies in 2010. This is consistent with Check-up Digital 2015 data which indicates that 73.9% of agencies are operating digitally by default5.

Figure 4 shows reasons provided by agencies for not having transitioned to a digital information and records management environment.

Figure 4: Main reasons for not having completed the transition to a digital information and records management environment

Funding/resource constraints 71%, Technical/Infrastructure barriers 53%, Staff capability constraints 40%, Organisational culture 31%, Waiting for a Whole-of-Gov. or shared-service solution 29%, Not a high priority for the agency 13%, Security classification constraints 13%, Legislative/Regulatory requirements 7%, Other 27%

Source: 2016 Survey of Information and Records Management Practices in Australian Government Agencies. National Archives of Australia / Orima

5. Support and initiatives

Australian National University, winners of the large agency category of the 2016 Digital Excellence awards, with the Director-General, National Archives, David Fricker

The Archives has undertaken a number of initiatives to promote the Policy and its benefits and to assist agencies meet the Policy targets. In 2015–16 a number of new products and services were introduced, and successful programs continued.

5.1.1. Promotion and awareness

The Digital Continuity 2020 Policy was launched at an invitation-only event for senior Government officials in October 2015, with subsequent briefings held for other stakeholders. The Director-General, and senior leaders, of the Archives also presented the policy at industry and government forums, conferences and other events.

The National Archives Awards for Digital Excellence continue to recognise and promote excellence and innovation in the management, use and re-use of digital information by Australian Government agencies. The 2016 award winners are examples for government agencies to follow in meeting public needs, improving efficiency and productivity, and working to international standards in digital information management.

The Archives continued to actively engage with Commonwealth agencies through its Government Agencies Information Network (GAIN), face-to-face forums, training, workshops and conferences, as well as through its website, e-bulletins and on Twitter. The Archives also continued to host a series of sponsored Industry Innovation Showcase presentations throughout 2015–16, to help both vendors showcase new ideas and products, and agencies to identify suitable solutions.

5.1.2. Products and advice

In 2015-16 the Archives produced a range of products, training and advice to build agency capability and support agencies in meeting the targets of the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy. Over the next few years the Archives will continue to release supporting products, tools, strategies, standards and advice to assist agencies to implement the policy.

Key products and advice delivered in 2015–16 include the following:

  • Business Systems Assessment Framework. This framework is based on an international standard and provides a streamlined, risk-based approach to the assessment of information management functionality in business systems. This enables agencies to ensure systems which need to manage information long-term, have the appropriate functionality, thereby minimising the effects of technical obsolescence including information loss.
  • General Records Authority 31. This product was revised and updated to authorise the disposal of records dating from 1980 (previously 1995) after successful digitisation. This supports improved access to government information, while also reducing demands on storage space.
  • Information Governance templates for an Information Governance committee and a framework. Embedding information governance in the corporate governance framework is an essential foundation for information being valued as an asset, with two of the early targets for the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy relating to information governance.
  • Interactive version of a capability matrix, which describes the digital information and records management expertise required in agencies, to build skills and knowledge both for specialists and all government employees.
  • E-learning modules, videos and workshops to complement and support other Digital Continuity 2020 products.

6. Looking ahead

Digital Excellence Award recipients Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, winner of the large agency categoryry

The Archives is undertaking further analysis of the surveys conducted in 2015 and 2016 and will develop additional tools and advice to assist agencies improve their digital information management capability and practices. In particular, the Archives will focus on:

  • Agencies' ability to retain digital information for as long as it is needed, and dispose of it when no longer needed (either by destruction or transfer to the Archives);
  • Improved integration of information governance into corporate governance in agencies;
  • Development of pathways and targets to build professional capability; and
  • Individual agencies which are only beginning the transition to digital information management and which may need additional assistance.

The Archives will also analyse the results of high performing agencies to identify practices which may assist lower performing agencies to improve their capability.

Other strategies and tools currently in development include:

  • A single streamlined survey tool to replace both the three-yearly survey and Check-up Digital. This survey will provide a roadmap to assist agencies to improve their digital information management practices and maturity and allow the Archives to monitor agencies progress against the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy targets.
  • Advice on digital authorisations to support fully digital business processes by reducing the need for 'wet' signatures.
  • Information Management professionalism targets to raise the level of information management professionalism and capability and provide a career path.

All products are being developed in collaboration with other Australian Government agencies, to ensure they are relevant and meet agency needs.

In line with Recommendation 18.1 in the Belcher report, the Archives will also publish this report, as well as summary reports of both the Check-up Digital and Information Management and Records Practices surveys to the Archives’ website. It is expected that the information in these reports will assist agencies to identify gaps in their capability and provide best practice examples as models.

7. Recommendations

The Archives recommends that you note:

  • the progress towards digital information management being made across government under the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy;
  • that the Archives will continue to provide pathways to assist agencies to improve their digital information management practices and maturity;
  • that this report will be published on the Archives' website; and
  • that we will continue to report annually for at least the next 3 years to Government on the status of digital information management in agencies and make recommendations for improvements.


  1. From lowest to highest: 1. Initial 2. Developing 3. Defined 4. Managed 5. Optimising
  2. Percentages are taken from those ratings at ‘Defined’ (level 3 maturity) and above
  3. Percentages are taken from those ratings at 1 and 2 (Initial and Developing)
  4. Surveys were conducted in 2010 and 2016, but figures reported relate to the previous financial years.
  5. At the 3 (Defined) level or above as reported in Check-up Digital 2015

Appendix 1: Distribution of agencies by average rating across all capabilities

The below table lists the agencies included in Figure 2 (p.8) of the report based on their average rating across all capabilities as reported in Check-up Digital 2015. Agencies are grouped alphabetically within thirds – those with a high level of digital capability maturity, those with developing levels of maturity and those who are just beginning the transition to digital information management (initial).

Distribution of agencies by average rating across all capabilities


  • ASC Pty Ltd
  • Attorney-General's Department
  • Australia Council
  • Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care
  • Australian Communications and Media Authority
  • Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority
  • Australian Financial Security Authority
  • Australian Government Solicitor
  • Australian Hearing Services (Australian Hearing)
  • Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  • Australian Institute of Marine Science
  • Australian Law Reform Commission
  • Australian National Audit Office
  • Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation
  • Australian Securities and Investment Commission
  • Australian Skills Quality Authority (National Vocational Education and Training Regulator)
  • Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority
  • Bundanon Trust
  • Civil Aviation Safety Authority
  • Clean Energy Finance Corporation
  • Clean Energy Regulator
  • Comcare
  • Defence Housing Australia
  • Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Employment
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Department of Human Services
  • Department of the House of Representatives
  • Fair Work Building and Construction
  • Fisheries Research and Development Corporation
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand
  • Independent Hospital Pricing Authority
  • IP Australia
  • Management Authority
  • National Archives of Australia
  • National Blood Authority
  • National Mental Health Commission
  • National Museum of Australia
  • National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental
  • NBN Co Limited
  • Office of National Assessments
  • Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
  • Parliamentary Budget Office
  • Professional Services Review
  • Repatriation Medical Authority
  • Reserve Bank of Australia
  • Safe Work Australia
  • Screen Australia
  • Tourism Australia
  • Workplace Gender Equality Agency


  • Administrative Appeals Tribunal
  • Airservices Australia
  • Army and Air Force Canteen Service (Frontline Defence Services)
  • Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency
  • Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
  • Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity
  • Australian Crime Commission
  • Australian Film, Television and Radio School
  • Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership Ltd
  • Australian Institute of Family Studies
  • Australian National University
  • Australian Office of Financial Management
  • Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
  • Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
  • Australian Public Service Commission
  • Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency
  • Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation
  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • Australian Sports Commission
  • Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited
  • Australian Taxation Office
  • Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre
  • Australian Transport Safety Bureau
  • Australian War Memorial
  • Bureau of Meteorology
  • Cancer Australia
  • Climate Change Authority
  • Commonwealth Grants Commission
  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
  • Cotton Research and Development Corporation
  • CrimTrac Agency
  • Department of Communications and the Arts
  • Department of Defence
  • Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
  • Department of Social Services
  • Department of the Environment
  • Department of the Treasury
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs
  • Export Finance and Insurance Corporation
  • Fair Work Commission
  • Federal Court of Australia
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
  • Murray-Darling Basin Authority
  • National Australia Day Council Limited
  • National Capital Authority
  • National Health Funding Body
  • National Health Performance Authority
  • National Library of Australia
  • National Portrait Gallery of Australia
  • National Transport Commission
  • Office of Parliamentary Counsel
  • Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman
  • Productivity Commission
  • Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund
  • Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation
  • Sydney Harbour Federation Trust
  • Torres Strait Regional Authority


  • Aboriginal Hostels Limited
  • Anindilyakwa Land Council
  • Australian Aged Care Quality Agency
  • Australian Electoral Commission
  • Australian Federal Police
  • Australian Fisheries Management Authority
  • Australian Grape and Wine Authority
  • Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Australian Institute of Criminology
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  • Australian Maritime Safety Authority
  • Australian National Maritime Museum
  • Australian Postal Corporation (Australia Post)
  • Australian Rail Track Corporation Limited
  • Australian Research Council
  • Australian Trade Commission
  • Central Land Council
  • Child Sexual Abuse
  • Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Corporation
  • Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation
  • Creative Partnerships Australia (Australia Business Arts Foundation Ltd)
  • Department of Finance
  • Department of Health
  • Department of Immigration and Border Protection
  • Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
  • Department of Parliamentary Services
  • Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Family Court and Federal Circuit Court
  • Future Fund Management Agency
  • Geoscience Australia
  • Grains Research and Development Corporation
  • Indigenous Business Australia
  • Indigenous Land Corporation
  • Moorebank Intermodal Company Limited
  • National Disability Insurance Agency
  • National Film and Sound Archive
  • National Gallery of Australia
  • National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Northern Land Council
  • Office of the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board
  • Office of the Australian Accounting Standards Board
  • Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions
  • Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman
  • Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General
  • Old Parliament House (Museum of Australian Democracy)
  • Organ and Tissue Authority
  • Outback Stores Pty Ltd
  • Royal Australian Mint
  • Royal Australian Navy Central Canteens Board
  • Royal Australian Navy Relief Trust Fund
  • Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to
  • Special Broadcasting Service Corporation
  • Superannuation Complaints Tribunal
  • Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency
  • Tiwi Land Council
  • Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council

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Implementation of Digital Continuity in the Australian Government, August 2016 (PDF, 591KB) – first annual report to Portfolio Minister on progress towards digital continuity in the Australian Government. The report is based on Check-up Digital 2015 and 2016 survey of information and records management practices in the Australian Government.

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