This article aims to analyze the relationship between the Norwegian Noark Standard and the concepts of Open Government and Freedom of Information (FOI). Noark is the Norwegian model requirements for Electronic Documents and Records Management Systems (EDRMS). It was introduced in 1984, making it not only the world’s first model requirement for EDRMS but also, through the introduction of versions from Noark 1 to the present Noark 5, internationally the model requirement with the longest continuation of implementation.
To better understand the technical outline and functionality of the Noark Model requirements, it is necessary to see the connection to the wider framework of the Norwegian governance legislation and its FOI Act (Norway, Freedom of Information Act, 2006) on the right of access to documents held by the public administration and public undertakings. FOI is the foundation on which the Norwegian Open Government platform (OEP) rests, as it aims to increase openness and transparency in the Norwegian society. Being one of the first national initiatives to incorporate in a single platform an up-to-date nationwide registry of metadata deriving from the EDRMS of the governmental sector, OEP is a model which could have relevance in open government settings also outside of Norway.
Non-fixity and randomness in the registering of metadata decrease the possibility of systematic search and systematic retrieval, since search within records presumably requires a combination of two or more sets of metadata. Context is a crucial component in information retrieval from records, and no records contain only one metadata element. With few exceptions, a record relates to another record, and the relation between the two of them is in itself a set of metadata. If the metadata relating the two records does not follow a standardized format, retrieval possibilities will remain random. The unpredictability following inadequate search results will decrease the credibility and the trust factor which should lie imminent within the information system. The absence of adequate search results will lead to an immediate decrease in the public’s perception of the system being valid or relevant as a trusted source of information. If metadata within a governmental agency is known to be subject to non-authorised alterations, deletion on changes, trust in the authenticity and integrity of the information provided from the agency will decrease significantly. This subsequently decreases predictability in the retrieval of information within the EDRMS. The parameters securing non-alteration of metadata once locked in the Noark-compliant EDRMS, may be measured against the absence of the same in any system being compared.
An adequate analysis describing the principles of trust embedded in the weekly or daily dissemination of metadata from the Noark databases to the OEP somehow has to explain certain parameters. These parameters within the Noark requirements eliminate the possibility of unauthorised deletion, alteration or manipulation of metadata and documents in the databases of the governmental organisations. The combination of parameters also creates context. The metadata transferred from the Noark systems to the OEP platform may never have been stored within a trusted digital repository. Transfer to the OEP happens weekly, whilst transfer to the repository of The National Archives is performed far less seldom – perhaps every tenth year. The contents of the Noark-based systems are not stored in trusted digital repositories in the governmental agencies, but remain part of the ordinary grid of servers and databases.
Hagen Sataslaatten, O. (2014), "The Norwegian Noark Model requirements for EDRMS in the context of open government and access to governmental information", Records Management Journal, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 189-204. https://doi.org/10.1108/RMJ-09-2014-0041
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