National Archives Week Celebration at Kimberly in Northern Cape

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By: Dr Mashilo Modiba

The National Achieves and Records Services of South Africa (NARSSA) organized a successful national archives awareness week held at Kimberly in the Northern Capefrom the 05 09 June 2023. It was celebrated under the theme, ‘leave no one behind: archives in the era of artificial intelligence”. In her opening speech the Deputy Minister of Sports and Culture alluded that this is the time for the national archives to start embracing the application of artificial intelligence to manage their archival records digitally. She indicated that government has enough budget to assist the national archives transform their archives.

She further alluded that the national archives must ensure that bursaries are provided to students who want to enroll their studies in artificial intelligence and how it can be applied in records management.

I agree with the deputy minister that this is the right time for the national archives to start embracing and adopting artificial intelligence to digitalize and manage their records digitally. Hence, I presented by paper during the awareness week on the title, “Application of artificial intelligence to manage the digital archives at NARSSA in the 5IR”.

My presentation was basically about what artificial intelligence is in the context of archives and records management and which resources needed to adopt it to manage records. Hence, I also talked about the adoption of intelligent robotic and cobotic machines to manage the digital archives. An example of intelligent robotic machine is Ripcord robot and example of cobotic machine is Sawyer cobot. The intelligent robotic and cobotic machines have the ability to digitalize the archival records, preserve the digital records in the cloud storage facility and enable easy and quicker access to the digital archives through a smart computer technology.

However, it is also important measure our state and level of readiness to apply artificial intelligence to manage the digital records at NARSSA. I also presented a paper as a was setting the scene on the title, “Readiness to apply artificial intelligence to manage the digital archives at NARSSA in the 5IR”.

This paper was based on a state of readiness my Modiba 2023 which talks about the issues of considering the organisational culture, the personnel andtraining, the resources needed, the process to implement AI, and also the budget and political will to adopt artificial intelligence to manage the digital archives at NARSSA.This will help NARSSA to gauge how ready they are to implement artificial intelligence to manage their archival records digitally. Interventions such as staff training canalso be taken into account. Staff must be trained on how they can collaborate with the intelligent cobotic machines.

The staff must also be consulted on how artificial intelligence can be implemented at NARSSA and particularly be addressed on the fact that artificial intelligence is not going to replace them but support them to perform the duties faster and quicker7. However, they must be encouraged to reskill and upskill so that their relevance can always be recognised with the archives and records management fraternity.

NARSSA must learn from the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) since they are now using intelligent robotic machines by the name of Sifiso to provide the library services. The University of Pretoria library is also using an intelligent robotic machine called Libby to provide the information services in the library. Which is a challenge to NARSSA now to also adopt such intelligent robotic and cobotic machines to manage their records digitally.

South Africa must also start a debate on the fifth industrial revolution because the developed countries and the leaders in the industry are already implementing it. this is the right time for South Africa especially through the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to initiate talks and projects on the 5IR.

5IR is basically a collaboration between artificial intelligence and human intelligence through a cobot, which is a collaborative robot that allows humans to collaborate with it. Academics through their publications and presentations in conferences and symposiums must start engaging in academic debates and discussions on the 5IR technologies and how they impact our society and services.

The LIS schools must also infuse the industrial revolution digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, embedded internet of things, artificial intelligence cloud computing technology, big data and Blochian technology in the LIS curriculum so that the graduates can be able to penetrate the market upon their graduations and add value in the economic world. Once we are at that level, I will know that South Africa especially in the field of library and information services, including archives and records management have arrived. Until then we still have a lot to do in embracing and applying artificial intelligence to provide services in our societies.


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