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What lessons can be learned from the US archivist’s digital mandate for 2019 and is there potential for applying them in lower resource countries?

Jason R. Baron (Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Washington, DC, USA)
Anne Thurston (The International Records Management Trust, London, UK)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 18 July 2016




This paper aims to present a high-level summary of the US archivist’s digital mandate for 2019, embodied in the publication “Managing Government Records”, issued on August 24, 2012, and a summary of US policy. The authors then consider the implications of the US e-recordkeeping initiative for lower-resource countries.


After setting out key elements of the US Archivist’s digital mandate, the paper proceeds to evaluate its policy implications for lower-resource countries based on the authors’ field experience and knowledge of case studies.


The USA is embarking on a state of the art approach for managing public sector archives in a digital form, with deadlines approaching for all federal agencies to manage e-mail and other e-records. Although a similar need exists in lesser-resourced countries, there are enormous barriers to successful implementation of a similar approach.

Research limitations/implications

The archivist’s 2019 digital mandate assumes that the technology sector will embrace the needs of public sector agencies in working on applicable electronic archiving solutions.

Practical implications

The Archivist’s Directive has the potential to be an enormous driver of change in the records management profession with respect to future management of increasingly digital archive collections. Vast collections of public sector e-mail and other forms of e-records potentially will be preserved under the directive, raising the stakes that archivists and records managers work on solutions in the area of long-term preservation and future access.

Social implications

The importance of capturing the activities of public-sector institutions in all countries for the purpose of openness, transparency and access cannot be overstated. In an increasingly digital age, new methods are needed to ensure that the historical record of governmental institutions is preserved and made accessible.


The US Archivist’s mandate represents a cutting-edge approach to long-term digital archiving with potential future applicability to the management of public sector records worldwide.



Baron, J.R. and Thurston, A. (2016), "What lessons can be learned from the US archivist’s digital mandate for 2019 and is there potential for applying them in lower resource countries?", Records Management Journal, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 206-217.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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