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The Guidelines on best practices for using electronic information are also available in French and German

Guidelines on best practices 
for using electronic information

Preface by Martin Bangemann

The DLM Forum, organised jointly by the Member States of the European Union and the European Commission in Brussels in December 1996, brought together experts from industry, research, administration and archives to discuss a topic of ever increasing importance: the memory of the information society. Just a few years ago hardly anyone could have imagined that the archival activities would be so revolutionised by technological innovations that, lacking timely and appropriate measures, the authenticity and long-term conservation of vital information would be seriously endangered in the near future.

Archives services are an essential component of the information society. Since the report Europe and the global information society (the Bangemann report) was published in 1994, they have become increasingly prominent in the Commission's action and support programmes. Archives services will moreover play an increasingly important role in modern information management. Against this background the DLM Forum gave a clear signal and set the ball rolling.

The Guidelines on best practices for using electronic information are one of the principal outcomes of the DLM Forum. A preliminary draft of the guidelines was distributed to the participants as a basis for discussion. Following the more than 300 generally substantial proposals for amendments and improvements which were made to the European Commission's services by national experts during and after the forum, this new, much revised and expanded edition of the guidelines was produced.

I am convinced that these multidisciplinary and jointly developed guidelines will help to define the short and medium-term strategies needed to solve the pressing problems of managing and conserving electronically stored data. Decision-makers in administration and industry are called upon to agree the necessary measures with experts on electronic archiving and develop possible practical solutions, working together on a pan-Europe scale. This would go a long way towards increasing the confidence of companies and private individuals in the reliability of data stored on the new media.

The structure of the guidelines makes them a rich source of information for experts and laypersons alike. They represent an important step forward both in ensuring the lasting conservation of the memory of the information society and in increasing the transparency of the activities and decision-making processes in the administrations of the Member States and the institutions of the European Union for all its citizens.

Dr Martin Bangemann
Member of the European Commission, responsible for
industrial affairs, information and telecommunications

Table of contents


1. Introduction

1.1. About the multidisciplinary guidelines
1.2. Using the multidisciplinary guidelines
1.3. From individual production to general use
1.4. Three stages in the information life cycle

2. From data to structured electronic information

2.1. What is information?
2.2. What are data?
2.3. What makes electronic information so different?
2.4. Creating electronic records
2.5. Two ways of structuring data
2.5.1. Documents
2.5.2. Databases
2.5.3. Procurement of hardware and software for electronic information

3. Information life cycle and allocation of responsibilities

3.1. Overview of the life cycle
3.2. Defining responsibilities for each stage

4. Design, creation and maintenance of electronic information

4.1. The design stage
4.2. Creating electronic information
4.3. Integration, conversion and appraisal of electronic information
4.3.1. Integration of information
4.3.2. Conversion of information
4.3.3. From paper or microfilm to scanned image
4.3.4. From scanned image to encoded format
4.3.5. From one digital format to another
4.3.6. Appraisal of electronic information

4.4. Management and classification of electronic information
4.5. Transfer

5. Short and long-term preservation of electronic information

5.1. Data storage media
5.2. File formats
5.2.1. Bitmapped graphics
5.2.2. Vector graphics files
5.2.3 Text files
5.2.4. Data and programs

6. Accessing and disseminating information

6.1. Towards the information society
6.2. Data access standards
6.3. Security
6.3.1. Access rights
6.3.2. Encryption and authentication

6.4. Access to data

7. Conclusions

8. Annexes

8.1. Terminology
8.2. Issues list
8.3. Understanding standardisation
8.4. Checklist for electronic information strategy
8.5. Prototype: what metadata should be created?
8.6. Prototype: how to select the right standards
8.7 Index
8.8. List of figures
8.9. Bibliography

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Updated: 31 March 1998.

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