The National Archives of Australia has ramped up the digitisation of its at-risk records after securing a government funding lifeline last year. The agency has handed out millions in contracts to digitise parts of its collection this year but failed to properly disclose the largest deal.
A $2 million contract for outsourced digitisation services was only published this week, despite work beginning in November and government ministers promoting the supplier’s project earlier this year.
A spokesperson for the National Archives of Australia said a two-year contract to Victorian company Micro Image was not reported earlier in error and the agency immediately rectified this when it became aware.
The spokesperson said the contract was for the digitisation of a range of archival paper and printed materials within the National Archives’ Canberra premises.
“At least 40,000-50,000 of at-risk records will be digitised over the life of the contract,” the spokesperson told InnovationAus.com.
Micro Image has set up a dedicated digitisation hub at the Archives, which was opened by government ministers in February and forms part of the government’s response to a damning 2019 review of the agency.
The review found serious resource pressures had put records at-risk, created cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and created a massive backlog of access requests.
It recommended structural reforms, changes to the Archives Act and long-term funding of up to $167 million, which has been endorsed by the National Archives director general at the time David Fricker.
A government response more than 18 months later included only $67 million in additional funding for the agency to digitise and archive its most at-risk records, bring on staff to deal with a backlog of access requests, and bolster cyber defences.
Mr Fricker, who was replaced last month, has warned the one-off government funding won’t be enough to stop the National Archives collection from falling “off a cliff”.
The agency has wasted little time in putting the lifeline to work however, handing out nearly $6 million in digitisation service contracts since the funding boost was confirmed in December, in addition to the $2 million Micro Image contract.
The National Archives has handed out several labour hire contracts during the period and a $468,000 contract to Australian cybersecurity firm CyberCX for monitoring services until August.
A new director of the agency was appointed by the government last month after a three-month vacancy.
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