Improving Information and Records Management:
An Important Agenda for Sustainable Development

March 5, 1996

Speaker: Rick Barry, Information Management and Technology (IM&T) Consultant, International Records Management Trust of London and former Chief of the Office Systems Division and the Information Services Division of the World Bank.


The presentation reported on missions carried out by the speaker in 1995 as a consultant for the International Records Management Trust of London, and partly funded by Britain's Overseas Development Administration (ODA), to help raise awareness of public and private sector senior officials in Uganda, Zimbabwe and Ghana to the existing and emerging trends in information management and information technology. A similar mission is planned for Kenya. His two month engagement involved conducting senior level interviews, seminars and workshops in the executive branch of government and (in Ghana) the legislative/judicial communities on topics such as the strategic use of information in public sector reform, the potential of government records as part of national information assets, the admissibility of records in court proceedings and the importance of linking information in all forms--paper, microform and electronic. The findings, including lessons for the development assistance community, have a direct relevance for the World Bank Group.

The presentation indicated ways in which these African countries have been obtaining and increasing inventories of late generation information technology equipment, now as part of virtually every multilateral and bilateral donor project. It outlined several findings of particular interest for the developing countries, e.g.:

  • the need to redress the imbalance in focus between information technology (where nearly all the focus is today) and information management (where there is little or no focus today);
  • need for national legislation to protect the integrity of government paper/electronic records;
  • the necessity of addressing information management and technology standards; and
  • the requirement to link paper and electronic records and to clean up paper records before or while automating them, etc.


Findings of importance to the donor community include:

  • donor agencies are unwittingly inflicting problems on these developing countries by not taking account of standards issues and needs when including information technology as part of lending and technical assistance projects;
  • archives and records management functionality is not being routinely built into application programs being developed as part of donor projects, thus perpetuating costly parallel treatment of paper and electronic records and lack of preservation of electronic records, etc.

The presentation was followed by discussion and the IMRT videotapes on the role of information and records in developing countries. The videos shown were:

  • "The Gambia Records Project: Internalizing Change and Administrative Reform" (28 min.)
  • "Toward Good Government: Records Management and Public Sector Reform in Tanzania"(24 min.)
  • "Protecting the People: Record Management and Citizens Rights in Ghana"(26 min.)

Copies of these videos are available to Bank Group staff at the Information, Technology and Personnel (ITP) Resources Center, ext. 82830.

Further reading:

For additional information, contact Rick Barry directly by e-mail.