This cross-over blog post is a continuation of our discussion about instant messaging in government that was first started on our sister blog “I Keep you Connected“.
The report released yesterday by Canada’s information commissioner regarding the use of Instant messaging and PIN messaging in government shines light on a troubling issue that should never have been an issue: accountability through access to information.
Access to Information is one of the best ways citizens can hold a government to account. Through personal requests or via news agencies, we can learn how government actions are keeping Canadian interests in mind when going about daily activities. Should a request be granted for access to information on a specific topic, it should be expected that all electronic files pertaining to communications be released. The fact that some information is not available because it is not even archived is disturbing.
Instant messaging, as pointed out in our companion blog, is essential for daily activity in government. It helps provide decision makers with key information in a timely manner as well as foster speedy communications internally. As is the case in many organizations, both government and business, instant messaging isn’t just a cool technology, it is a fact of every day life.
There really is not any reason instant messages and BlackBerry PIN-to-PIN messages can not be archived. Each should be treated as a form of digital record, where its fate should only be decided on by the national archives. If there currently is no way to digitally archive these transactions, then it needs a solution from a partner who understands both technology and government.
When an adequate solution becomes available, there is no reason that should stop a government from implementing these changes, unless information was intended to be kept from the citizens for less than ethical reasons. I agree that to cease all Instant messaging and PIN messaging in government would not only inconvenience many staffers and elected officials, it would probably slow down productivity in the already slow wheels of government. But a solution to archive all digital interactions isn’t just a “nice to have”, its a MUST!
Should a government decide that messaging must continue, but not be willing to put into place any systems to ensure the proper archiving of communications, it would only add to the growing mistrust that has been formed in the previous few months. Therefore, any business that can introduce a solution to this dilemma should have an attentive client to sell to.