05.10.2012 - Communication & Information Sector

Setting the Digital Agenda for the Memory of the World

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“This heritage is fragile; together we must protect it”. This was the message of UNESCO’s Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova, to the participants in the international conference “Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation”, which concluded its work on Friday, 28 September. More than 500 experts from 110 countries, representing all parts of the world, met in Vancouver, Canada, to debate the issues related to the digitization of documentary heritage, its long-term preservation and the creation of an enabling environment for facilitation of these tasks.

The great challenge is to avoid digital amnesia, to ensure that records and data created today will also be accessible to humanity in the future. Therefore, the conference adopted the UNESCO/UBC Vancouver Declaration, which emphasizes that as enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, each individual should be guaranteed access to information, including in digital format, and that national policies should be established to promote the right to information, open government and open data. The Declaration encourages establishment of digital preservation models that close the existing gaps in institutional regulatory frameworks, and balance access with privacy and due consideration of for ownership and control of indigenous cultural heritage and traditions, as well as pay necessary attention to the training of information professionals on digital preservation.

Specific recommendations were addressed to the main stakeholders with UNESCO being requested to continue advocacy work in making digital preservation frameworks and practice a reality, as well as develop and implement a “digital agenda” under the auspices of the Memory of the World Programme to ensure that governments, major research and donor agencies invest in better management of trustworthy digital information.

The conference also encouraged member states of UNESCO to develop public policies enabling preservation of digital heritage in a rapidly changing technological environment, including adoption of electronic legal deposit laws.

The conference underlined the importance of industry in digitization and digital preservation and adopted a call on industry to ensure long-term accessibility to information which is contained in legacy formats. It further encouraged professional associations work with industry for the development of requirements of systems that embed preservation concern and assist in the development of a cohesive and practical vision of the way forward in addressing the management and preservation of recorded information in all its forms in the digital environment.

The outcomes of the Vancouver conference will be finalized over the next two weeks for  presentation to the 191st UNESCO Executive Board meeting for consideration and inclusion of the digital preservation issues in the Organization’s work programme.

Please send your comments/observations on the Vancouver Declaration to mowvancouver(at)unesco.org not later than 19 October 2012.

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