160,000 government records publicly accessible on NAS online archives portal

160,000 government records publicly accessible on NAS online archives portal

National Archives of Singapore new building 1
The National Archives of Singapore building officially reopened on Apr 7, 2019. (Photo: National Archives of Singapore)

SINGAPORE: The metadata of 160,000 Government records have been made available for public access on the National Archives of Singapore’s (NAS) Archives Online portal, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Sim Ann said on Wednesday (Sep 4).

“This number will grow as we work with Government agencies to progressively declassify Government records,” she said in Parliament.

“All declassified records are publicly searchable on the online portal.”

However, Ms Sim added that not all Government records can be released for open access.

In particular, those related to national defence, foreign relations and internal security, as well as documents which may be bound by confidentiality obligations or personal privacy reasons.

Currently, the NAS has about 2 million Government records in its custody that are more than 25 years old and are deemed as public archives, she said.

Ms Sim was replying to a parliamentary question filed by Non-constituency MP Leon Perera, who wanted to know the proportion of Government documents that are more than 25 years old and are part of the public archives contained in the publicly accessible NAS Archives Online, among others.

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In a supplementary question, Mr Perera asked whether records that were held back from being made publicly available online at the 25-year mark can be reviewed again at a later timeframe.

“At the point of 25 years, there could be certain personal sensitives, confidentiality obligations but is there a process to review documents further down the line? Because those personal sensitives may not be there, say 50 years down the line,” he said.

Ms Sim replied: “I’ve shared the numbers just now so there’s quite a lot of work to go through for the current number of records that are 25 years and older. 

"I think we will take his suggestion into consideration but really, the priority is to declassify as many documents as we can.”

In recent years, 750 officers from different Government agencies have been sent for basic declassification training, Ms Sim noted.

This is to help more officers understand the importance of declassification, “and to do it well and to do it quicker”.

READ: Finding yourself - and your roots - in the National Archives

In another supplementary question, Mr Perera asked if the records that are declassified and released on the online portal can be “made available more freely”. 

“From what I understand, when you go online to this platform, you can view documents and if you click on it and you actually want to get the document, in some cases you have to ask for written permission and in some cases conditional permission is given,” he said.

“Not all the documents are actually made freely available on this NAS system.”

To that, Ms Sim said: “We hope to make as many documents and records publicly viewable and also searchable as possible. All this is ongoing work. 

“Members of the public can also make requests for these info and our NAS staff will also facilitate.”

Source: CNA/sk(rw)

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