Posted by Marieke Guy on June 8th, 2010
Yesterday David Cameron warned the British public of what he called the “inevitably painful times that lie ahead“. His speach referred to the spending cuts that are seen to be necessary to reduce the 70 billion debt the UK currently has. A few weeks ago the Coalition government unveiled their first round of spending cuts and the budget on 22 June is likely to lower the axe again. The Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) has the Higher Education budget down for £200 million in efficiencies.
It is inevitable that a number of organisations will close and many projects will come to an end. British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), the organisation which promotes the use of technology in schools was one of the first to go.
So what role will digital preservation and access play in the current economic and fiscal situation?
Digital preservation is more important than ever in a time when the wealth of what JISC and other government funded organisations have created could potentially slip away.
After the closure of Becta was announced there was much discussion on Twitter about what would happen to their Web site and their intellectual assets. Some of their work will be carried by other government organisations and it’s likely that these resources will be transfered over to other sites and databases. Their Web site is currently one of those preserved by the National Archives however there are still questions over what else will be preserved and the processes that will take place. Will they mothball their Web site? What other Web resources will they save? They would do well to consult the JISC Preservation of Web Resources handbook.
It will be an interesting case study to watch.
Howerver it is not only government digital objects that are at risk. Those of commercial companies are unlikely to stand the test of time either.
In response to this the UK Web Archive have created a collection for the recession containing Web sites from high street stores closed down.The Credit Crunch Collection initiated in July 2008 contains records of high-street victims of the recession including Woolworths and Zavvi.
There is also a worry that many digital records from bankrupt companies will dissapear in the haste to sell off assets. On his blog a records manager explains how in the past archivists have waded in to save companies records in a form of “rescue” archiving. However “When a modern business goes bust, many of its records will exist only in electronic form….The inheriting organisation will always be under pressure to take the easiest and cheapest way to dispose of a predecessor’s assets, which in practice probably means that data will be wiped and the hardware sold on. “.
It seems that much is likely to be lost in the next few years in we aren’t careful.