The National Archives plays a key role in preserving the heritage of the UK. We hold documents going back almost a thousand years to the Domesday Book, and from there our record runs through British history, right up to Cabinet records from the Thatcher Government.
However only some of the information produced and held by government is sent to us for preservation. This means that departments have to manage most of the information they hold throughout its lifecycle, from gathering to use, storage, protection and eventually deletion.
What we do to help
As part of our Archives Inspire strategy, The National Archives is committed to providing expert advice and scrutiny to government. We play a vital role every day in ensuring that government keeps both the data of our citizens and vital corporate information safe, while also using it in the most effective way.
We are considered a world leader in working with large amounts of information, and are in a position to offer our expertise to other organisations across government. We have teams who provide advice on how to protect and handle personal and corporate data to all of the central government departments. We also conduct Information Management Assessments of departments and provide training to help civil servants develop their skills.
We work alongside a range of other public sector organisations including the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). Together we provide advice on best practice and emphasise the importance of using information securely and in the public interest.
Why all staff members matter
One of the most important messages that we emphasise is that all civil servants should see the protection of information as being an integral part of their roles. A large number of data breaches can be prevented if front line staff understand the value of the data they work with, and identify potential risk areas. Staff within government should work with their supervisors and Knowledge and Information Management (KIM) experts to manage the risks.
If staff are able to protect and handle data correctly it can also maximise the efficiency of an organisation. We strive to ensure that we use and access the information we hold in the most efficient way possible. We find and retrieve over 600,000 documents per year in response to requests from members of the public in our reading rooms. If staff were unable to maintain integrity or security of the information we hold, we would not be able to undertake this vital work. It is only by ensuring that every colleague understands the importance of correctly managing the documents that we are able to provide services to the public.
Why we care about information security
Helping your organisation develop a culture that protects and manages data effectively is not an overnight process. It’s like the development of a culture of Health and Safety in organisations in recent decades. Today all staff undertake practices to keep themselves and their colleagues safe as a core part of their day to day jobs. Over time similar developments are being made across both the public and private sectors in the fields of security and information management.
This development across government is deeply important to the work of The National Archives, as the better departments are at handling and securing all of their information, the easier it will be to identify and transfer the correct documents to our repositories here at Kew. Great progress has been made in developing a secure culture in recent years and we will continue to help drive and support this development.