Monday, May 13, 2013

The Four-and-a-Half-Pronged Program to Reinvent the ISA

Blogging has been a bit disappointing recently, we admit. All sorts of things have been going on, and since tomorrow evening is a holiday, the rest of the week doesn't look too promising, either.

Some of the problem, however, has a fine excuse behind it: the ISA finds itself in the throes of a major upheaval these days.

Last year the government adopted its Resolution 4473, which foresaw a major reform in the way the Israeli administration creates, processes, preserves and opens its documentation for the citizenry. The reforms were to start in 2013, and the lack of a national budget so far this year has made things a wee bit more complicated. One of the easier segments of the resolution, however, required the State Archivist to submit a master plan to the prime minister.

The master plan was basically completed last Fall, but just about then there was an election campaign underway, a point in time in which politically elected officials are not supposed to make strategic decisions if they can be put off until after the elections; then, after the elections, the prime minister and his aides were a bit busy with such matters as forming a new coalition. Only in April were we finally able to re-submit the final draft of the master plan. We are happy to tell that it was promptly accepted and confirmed.

The plan calls for four major spheres of change:

1. The bureaucracy and the ISA must devise new methods to identify important documentation at the time of creation and ensure its eventual arrival in the ISA; the rest of the documentation must likewise be identified so as to be correctly disposed of.

2. A large-scale project of scanning will be launched, so that the paper documentation which has been collected can be processed and accessed in digital form (such as online).

3. The whole system of declassification must be revamped, so as to deal with the backlog, while aligning the methodology with the Freedom of Information Act..

4. The documentation is to be put into the public realm using the full gamut of available (and future) technological tools.

On top of which, the Law of Archives must be re-legislated. The current law was passed in 1955, when very few people used iPads or the Internet, and although some of its sections have been re-visited since then, the legal edifice on which the entire practice of archives in Israel stands is, well, a bit precarious.

So we've got our work cut out for us. Some sections, we're happy to tell, were launched even before the official OK, and in recent weeks we've been a bit preoccupied.

a. We've started the large logistical challenge of scanning millions of pages of documents each month. This is actually not a matter of technology (the technology is mostly simple) as much as one of logistics, quality control, and generally being careful and systematic.

b. We're developing new software systems to work in; the first segments are already being implemented, even as some of the latter ones are only in various stages of planning.

c. We're cooperation with a handful of forward-looking government ministries in evolving and applying new methodologies for the identification and processing of digital documentation.

d. We're seriously scratching our heads about the declassification process. It's tricky, that one is, but must be dealt with.

e. We're outlining the issues of a new law of archives. Legislation, of course, is the job of the parliament, but since this is to be a government-sanctioned law we've got lots of studying, defining, planning and initial formulating to do before the legislators even begin their deliberations.

All of which is not to say that this blog is going silent. Hopefully it isn't. But we've had a rather full plate recently, and the adjustment may take a bit.

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