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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The nature of record and the information management crisis in the Government of Canada : a grounded theory study Xie, Li


Information is considered by the Government of Canada its “lifeblood” and its management is regulated by both law and government policy. Being part of information management, records and their management are required to facilitate “accountability, transparency, and collaboration”, including “access to information and records”. The right to access government records is granted by the Canadian Access to Information Act, which, since 1985, has been the main mechanism for the public to inquiry about the government’s conduct and decision-making. The Office of the Information Commissioner was established to monitor the administration of the Act, including assessing government institutions’ performances under the Act. In 2009, the Office reported that almost 60% of the institutions it assessed were rated with a below-average performance, based primarily on their delay in releasing requested records. The Office thus concluded that “The poor performance shown by institutions is symptomatic of what has become a major information management crisis”. This information management crisis motivated the present study, which aimed at finding explanations for it. Within the framework of the grounded theory methodology, data were collected from thirty government departments, including publications, emails, site observations, notes of conversations/teleconferences, and internal records released by Access to Information requests. These field data, along with relevant literature, were coded, memoed, and constantly compared for formulating the explanations, or discovering the substantive theory. At the center of the theory lies the core variable record nature, which underlies ninety six concepts and the hypotheses based on the concepts. According to the theory, when the understanding of record nature is incomplete, the management of records is ineffective and unable to deliver any concrete results, causing in departments the marginalization of the records management function, the disappearance of records, and ultimately, the inability to perform basic yet critical tasks in supporting government operation and accountability, that is, the information management crisis. The study contributes to archival science in general, and to records management in particular, both theoretically and methodologically. It specifies the concept of record nature, clarifies popular misconceptions, elaborates on records management principles, and offers a records management work model conforming to the generated theory.

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