Mzodidi Tutuka

Mzodidi Tutuka

Last updated on 2 March 2022

Mzodidi Tutuka is Principal Library Assistant at University at Cape Town Library. He recently attended the NEDCC Digital Directions Conference 2022  with support from the DPC’s Career Development Fund, which is funded by DPC Supporters.

I am Mzodidi Tutuka from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. I work at the Digital Library Services (DLS) department which falls under the Information and Resources division within the UCT Libraries. Our department consists of 9 individuals dedicated to providing the best data/digital support for researchers and studentsThrough a successful grant application to the DPC, which we have been members of since 2020, I have been fortunate to be granted an opportunity to attend the NEDCC Digital Directions conference this year. Attending the conference has helped me put a perspective on the general scope of the work that my department does.

I will not dwell too much on the content of the conference handled by experts in their field but instead offer reflections. Attending the conference pointed to the fact that today’s data and record managers differ from their predecessors because of having access to online educational resources, training, and advanced technology that were not available to previous generations. Demand for digital services and information by diverse user groups has changed the mission of many information professions, particularly in academic institutions and archives. It is worth pointing out that archivists and records managers continue to shift their emphasis from analysing the properties of individual documents/records to analysing the functions, processes, and transactions resulting in the creation of digital documents. Records managers and content creators must accept that they will be perpetually forced to think more deeply about professional standards and specifications, as their abilities may be hampered by outdated ideas and sped up fast paced technology. The principles of the archival and information curators must be re-examined so that they can better discern the nature of new models and forecasting digital directions. For example, the way in which we understand the meaning of an original record has undergone various shifts over the years. Principles need to be adjusted to address the realities associated with changes in the world of work, technology, and the rise in electronic records.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced humanity to rethink the workspaces and times to accommodate changes and flexibility unlike the traditional nine-to-five office usage. Even the possibility of having an online conference such as the NEDCC digital directions in 2022 is a result of such an examination and a showcase of our resilience as people. We are increasingly forced to work with digital historical collections every day, more often archivists and historians struggle with gaps and silences in their collections owing to the unavailability of information or lost records of a particular time. During this time of COVID-19, we are dealing with history unfolding around us, we are being afforded a chance to contribute to minimizing the gaps and historical silences and creating a documentary record that is aware of itself. Future humanity will benefit immensely from recording and archiving the COVID-19 phenomenon in real-time. Some of the methods that can be used in collecting this history may include collecting written journals of people’s thoughts and experiences, recording voice memos to make an audio oral history, saving social media posts, letters, and/or taking photos and/or videos of life as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Collecting our experiences during this period can be viewed as a valuable resource “to offer a historical perspective on how governments, their citizens and the international community have faced pandemics in the past and, therefore, the importance of preserving records regarding this pandemic for future research." Furthermore, “The duty to document does not cease in a crisis, it becomes more essential.”[2] Digital information must be effectively managed and solid electronic administration infrastructures must be built to guarantee good records management. Access to quality information is key to combating fake news in times of such uncertainty. Transparency facilitates the control of government actions by society, including its responsibility in the protection of individual liberties and the exercise of social rights in the context of the fight against pandemics. Working towards greater transparency can contribute to enhancing the confidence of citizens in institutions. Perhaps, currently as never before, we recognize records management and archives as public goods and as key elements for the fulfilment of our vision on access to information.


[1] Address by Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Ms Nocawu Mafu at the Official Launch of National Archives Week in Umhlathuze

[2] The ‘COVID-19: The duty to document does not cease in a crisis, it becomes more essential’ statement developed by ICA and the International Conference of Information Commissioners, supported by ARMA International, CODATA, Digital Preservation Coalition, Research Data Alliance, UNESCO Memory of the World and World Data System

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