Transparency through full digital recordkeeping and digital archiving: the Antwerp practice of eliminating hybrid recordkeeping and paper documents. By: Inge Schoups, Director, Antwerp City Archives
In 2006, the city of Antwerp, in collaboration with the municipal archives service, began a project for a “Paperless Office,” meaning the exclusive use of digital documents and tools in the offices of the city archives. The goal was to create by administrative transparency, to stop the duplication of work, and of course, to eliminate all paper documents. The City of Antwerp gave the Archives the human, material and financial resources necessary to achieve these goals.
This project should be applauded both for its practical approach and its impact on administrative efficiency, but we also hold some reservations on this willingness to destroy the originals of digitized documents. In fact, according to Inge Schoups, the Director of the Antwerp City Archives, a large amount of paper documents that are also available digitally has been disposed of since 2010. Yet, Mrs. Schoups also notes that the legislative initiative that would make digital signatures official has yet to be adopted in the Kingdom of Belgium. As of right now, it is the paper document that has legal value.
Thus, if the original of financial paperwork (bills…) can be destroyed after their digitization, it is recommended to preserve the originals of vital civil records for some time still. Sometimes, the coexistence of paper and digital document is better for administrative, judicial and historical reason than the potential loss of important information. The tools of electronic records management do not yet guarantee the permanence of documents throughout time.
Mor DIEYE, ICA volunteer