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The Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) marks its landmark tenth year anniversary of its establishment at a reception at the Palace of Westminster today.

At this event, DPC Chairman Richard Ovenden and Lord MacNally, Minister of State for Justice, will celebrate the achievements of the Digital Preservation Coalition over the past ten years, but will also highlight the continuing risk to government, business, educational and cultural organisations and by society at large in failing to address the preservation of digital information. In his speech, Richard Ovenden points to major improvements that have been made in the past ten years but highlights recent studies which show how major data losses continue to be suffered:

  • Websites of MPs Robin Cook, Claire Short no longer live
  • Website of Woolworths plc and Welsh Language Board both lost
  • After one year, 11% web resources shared through social media will be lost

A briefing from the TIMBUS project illustrates how the challenge of reliable access to data is no longer simply a concern for memory institutions or research centres:

  • 94% of companies that suffer major data loss incidents go out of business in 2 years
  • The global costs of data centre downtime are estimated at $426bn per annum
  • Data creation and consumption is diverse in ways which could not have been imagined a decade ago. Mobile devices have started becoming more ubiquitous than power supply. In 2011 the global ‘on network and off-grid’ population reached at 48million – that is mobile phone users who don’t have access to power at home.

The DPC has established a vital network which has encouraged and supported the emergence of national, regional, sectoral and institutional commitments to digital preservation in the UK, Ireland and further afield, and it has empowered the pioneers of digital preservation to endorse the DPC as a reference for institutions’ sharing the vision to secure our digital memory tomorrow. Ten years on the DPC is firmly established as THE authoritative voice in digital preservation in the UK.

Formally established in July 2001 and endorsed at a House of Lords reception in February 2002 the then Chair of the Board of Directors Dame Lynne Brindley, welcomed the DPC’s founding seventeen members. Today the DPC proudly boasts just shy of forty established members. The energy and expertise of its staff and Executive Board has facilitated the hosting of well over sixty digital preservation training events; awarded dozens of scholarships via its Leadership Programme; commissioned leading edge Technology Watch Reports; produced fifty ‘What’s New in Digital Preservation?’ news round ups; has advised and lobbied government and other public sector on policy; is involved in two European Commission-funded initiatives (APARSEN and TIMBUS) and runs the biannual Digital Preservation Awards.

‘The successes of the Coalition in the last decade have been impressive’, notes Richard Ovenden the current chair, ‘and we have come a long way in addressing the challenge set for us in 2002’. But the question of how to ensure long term value from digital data remains problematic. ‘The need for digital preservation is growing in just the same way as the digital domain: in total size, in sheer complexity and in economic importance. ’

‘The question about preserving authentic digital records is not simply one for archives or libraries, explained William Kilbride of the DPC. ‘An article in the Economist recently reported that patent litigation between technology companies in the US was worth $200bn in 2011 - equivalent to 2% of GDP. ‘This may not make you think about digital preservation, until you realise that the best way to defend a court case is to cite authoritative records of innovation.’

‘In other words, digital preservation has vital role in protecting some of the most dynamic and innovative sectors of the economy.’

‘That’s just one example: health care, civil engineering, pensions, the recording industry, care services, research institutes, legal services and many more sectors need to maintain and exploit accurate and authoritative records over an extended period. No wonder that Gartner recently reported that 15% of companies would soon need to employ a digital archivist.’

In his speech, Richard Ovenden will look to the next ten years. He will observe that data is an asset and that preservation creates new opportunities, but only if organisations are clear about their own plans. He will call on organisation to ask five simple questions:

  • Do they know which data sets from the last decade are going to be valuable in the next?
  • Do they have robust plans for the long-term exploitation to business-critical, high-value data?
  • Do they have robust preservation plans to ensure long term access to data?
  • How are they going to recruit or train staff with skills in digital preservation needs?
  • How can they collaborate more closely to meet the challenge of digital preservation?