The Chief Executive Officer, Secured Records Management Solutions, Dr. Sam Nwosu, in this interview spoke about the importance of digitalisation to organisations. Emma Okonji brings the excerpts:
Electronic Records Management (ERM) solution is making in-roads at a time when the federal government is in search of technology solutions that will drive its digital transformation agenda. How will the ERM solution assist government in achieving its digital transformation goals?
ERM serves as the first step in achieving a successful digital transformation agenda. ERM is a viable solution that enhances efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery which is the sole aim of digital agenda of the government. This solution manages records electronically by automatically capturing document metadata, identifying records, categorising document, facilitating the retrieval of such document, and creating effective workflow thereby reducing turnaround time. Is only when data has been digitised that such records can be retrieved at anytime and anywhere; this is what ERM solution facilitates. We can conclusively say that ERM is the pillar for digital transformation and to digitally transform, we digitize, organize content, automate processes, streamline processes, and transform processes.
Information and communication technologies have revolutionized our world by introducing distinct technology-enabled services in every sphere of our life, one of such technology-enabled services is ERM.which enhances business flow in an efficient environment. The first stage to digitalisation is the conversion of paper records into digital imagery. This process involves scanning, indexing, classification, and the use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) as a search engine. This is followed by the deployment of electronic document management system (EDMS) or electronic content management (ECN) to enable retrieval of electronic records and conversion of manual activities into workflows automation. With ERM platform solution, physical records, manual processes, and work flows are converted to digital form. We can indeed say ERM platform is the bedrock of achieving digital transformation goal of the Federal government.
Effective digitisation that will enable people work from anywhere outside their office space, is a key feature of the ERM solution. What are some of the benefits of digitisation to organisations and the Nigerian economy?
At Secured Records, we provide end-to-end records management solution. With digitisation, paper documents are converted to digital form to ensure easy access to information, keeps, stores, and secures information in its natural context. Also by digitising records, the risk of loss of records is lower and this allows for business continuity in the case of a disaster. The cost of keeping physical records is drastically reduced with the use of ERM solution. In addition to enhancing operational efficiency and achieving effectiveness in services delivery, ERM platform promotes collaboration and synergy among inter-agencies, which invariably helps to fight corruption.
The Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, few months ago, launched Electronic Records Management (ERM) platform, which is a product of Secured Records Management Solutions Ltd (SRMS). How will the solution help the ministry in electronic tracking of mails and letters?
The Ministry of Finance had the issue of inability to track incoming and outgoing mails, which resulted in long turnaround time for processing mails. The primary purpose of ERM is to manage electronic information within an organisation’s workflow, this solution therefore automates incoming and outgoing mails, provides real time tracking, report of the current location of documents in the service of the clients via email, and the solution goes further by filing such documents in a central document repository/library. Mail tracking triggers a process flow of mails within the Ministry in a secured access control system. The mail tracking solution shows mail activities on the dashboard such as notification, first open alert, and daily statistics reports. The ERM platform was borne out of the digital transformation initiative by the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning. On assumption of office, it was obvious that most processes in the ministry were paper-based, making it difficult to work from anywhere, track mails without physical presence, not to talk of the inefficiency and long turnaround time in searching for mails. Hence, the need to digitize documents (for long term preservation), automate mails processing (for easy mail/ document tracking), automate most approval processes and ensure that these resources are accessible from anywhere through a secured tunnel. With the implementation of this system, it is now easy to track mails the same way you would track a parcel that was sent through DHL and other automated courier companies. The system was built as an improvement to the manual process, ensuring that they don’t miss any mail by providing full-text and metadata search capabilities using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology on documents, providing Email/SMS alerts and notifications for tasks that are on the queue, setting priorities on each task ensuring that due dates are adhered to, providing a mail tracking system through which correspondences can be tracked. The benefits to the ministry are increased responsiveness, tracking and accountability, unlimited document storage, data security, ease of access and use, and easiest document retrieval method
What other service do you render with your ERM aside mails tracking and what is the economic value of the solution to organisations?
Aside mail tracking, ERM manages documents electronically using a secured access mechanism and control while maintaining the document context. Also the solution preserves records using metadata to prevent loss of records as a usual occurrence most organizations, by tagging records with custom attributes for easy identification as provided by each organization – this would further aid the easy retrieval of such record. Furthermore ERM, aids efficient workflow activities within organisations. Every organisation aim to be efficient in service delivery and to reduce or totally eradicate the tendencies of losing records or data. Our solution is a safety net that secures data of organisations, enabling organizations to work from anywhere and at any time, which reduces turnaround time, create efficiency, enhances productivity, and aid business continuity.
As information technology consultant, how will you advise government on the adoption of new technology solutions, given the fact that people are not quick to adopt emerging technologies for the fear of job loss?
Knowledge is a powerful tool and continuous technological education is needed. The government should as a first move, educate the people on the new solutions and on how they can integrate this new technology to their work for efficiency and greater productivity. The government should make investment in acquiring necessary tools such as laptops, desktops, and internet access. In addition to continuous education in new technology, government should promulgate a policy that all inter and intra agency communications in the civil service be via a platform like ERM.
The federal government changed the name of the former Ministry of Communications to Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. What is your view about this change in nomenclature and how will it help in driving Nigeria’s digital transformation agenda?
The name change is important as it aligns with the objectives of e-government master plan to digitalize all government functionalities to achieve transparency, drive cost effectiveness, and join the World’s best practices as we enter the digital economy. The change of name is in tandem with the government’s resolve to achieving digital transformation across MDAs and parastatals and underscores the importance of the Ministry in helping to drive transparency in its operations. The name change is germane because it is a reflection of an entity identity, the name of anything, gives specification to such a thing. We can say the change of nomenclature is a step in the right direction, which when aligned with the ultimate aim can produce greater results.
E-governance is key to national development and government is keen at enforcing e-governance. What role can the ERM solution play in helping government to achieve its e-governance initiative?
E- Governance is the application of information and communication technology for delivery government services. E- governance cannot be actualized where the data and records exchange between government and individual, government and businesses, government and government has not been fully digitized. ERM is needed for the full integration of this data from it raw physical form to digital form and the creation of workflow for easy access, quick service delivery, and accountability.
Data gathering and utilization are key to national development. How will ERM help in data storage, security, and retrieving of stored data?
Records used for regulatory oversights, public policy formulation, and accountability tracking need to be retained and managed for ease of accessibility. ERM platform is secured with two-factor authentication process, rugged; and scalable. It ensures that these captured data are stored in a safe and accessible manner. The data can be stored on premise, cloud, or hybrid, depending on customer need and preference. As part of record management for electronic records, each organization determines where and how they want the data to be stored. This decision is based on the likelihood of accessing those records regularly and the overall cost in maintaining the data.
Data hackers are becoming more sophisticated in data and website hacking for personal gains. How secured are your solutions in achieving zero downtime in organizational operations?
We are not ignorant of the activities of hackers, our solutions are built to be fault tolerant and distributed across servers which are located in multiple regions to foster load balancing. In occurrence of any hack there is an automatic diversion of data and the compromised system is cut off from the network until rectified. Also, our solution uses multiple clustered database on the backend thereby preventing data loss, this help to achieve zero downtime of the nearest possible form.
For the public sector, we have in partnership with Galaxy Backbone architected a robust infrastructure which only permits access by authenticating through a VPN for network security. We have also implemented a 2-factor authentication which authenticates using OTP (on-time password). All communication between server and web client are encrypted using an RSA encryption technology, this is to avoid attacks from middleware.
Why did you choose to work with Galaxy Backbone, a government parastatal that is driving connectivity in public service?
Galaxy Backbone Limited is the National Service Centre of the government and the only institute certified Tier 3 data center within Nigeria Public Sector. It is a company saddled with the responsibility of providing Wide Area Network (WAN) and Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) connecting all government entities so it seems right to collaborate with them in the implementation of this project for easy integration to the existing network and since we intend to implement ERM solutions across ministries when given the opportunity.Galaxy Backbone also has a high-speed fiber connectivity to all Ministries Departments and Agencies in the public sector, creating a high-speed connection to the ERM platform.
Training and empowerment of public service workers with the right technology skill are key factors for economic growth of any nation. What is your take on this?
Technology is the key driver of economic growth in many countries, the government wants to leverage technology to foster economic growth but as we know technology cannot grow in isolation for it to impact the economy, the people as the end operators of this technological solutions need to be trained. The training should not be one-off, rather continuous. Government workers as well as workers in private sectors should be trained and retrained to leverage technology to work from anywhere and anytime.
Government is beginning to realize the need for digital operations versus analogue operations. What exactly is government loosing if it continues in manual operations that are analogue in nature?
Good question. Continued use of manual process would result to lots of data loss, and continued increase in cost of governance resulting from cost of paper, ink, courier services. We are in the world where data is everything, developed countries use these data to analyse, predict, and respond to ever changing demand of its citizens. There is an urgent need to move with technological trend to prevent massive data setback in the future, and to join the digital economy revolution to drastically enhance productivity, achieve operational efficiency, and reduce the cost of governance
There is a general belief that emerging technologies will bring about huge job loss despite the ability to create digital jobs. How will you advise government on the best way forward?
This same argument was common during the first and second industrial revolution. Technology in not intended to replace humans, but to upgrade human capacity on the use of technology to increase turnaround time, achieve cost effectiveness, and enhance productivity. In reality, some jobs will be lost, but more jobs will certainly be created. As previously answered, there is urgent need to train and keep training the workforce and students on the emerging technologies. For technological solutions to run perfectly, humans need to control it and give it command to function. For instance, automation helps take people off the field and into the control rooms, thereby allowing them to work from anywhere in a safe and secured environment.
You have worked as the MD/Country Director for Nokia Nigeria before resigning your job to set up Secured Records Management Solutions Ltd. What must have informed your decision and how has the transformation journey been so far?
After over 25 years in telecom, I was seeking to offer a solution that could be ‘industry agnostic’ – meaning, a solution that can be embraced by any industry. At Nokia, we never subscribed for cheque books because there was no need for it as most processes, including payments, are fully automated. I was intrigued by such discipline and I wanted to integrate workflow automation into the traditional document management system to achieve a one-stop shop solution.
In addition to helping private sector achieve their digital transformation strategy, I wanted to make a contribution towards a near-paperless public sector, where mails can be tracked electronically; paper documents are converted to electronic imagery; and can be retrieved from anywhere and anytime in a secured environment without any compromise. Overall, the journey has been fulfilling and timely. While we push the adoption of technology in the public sector, we provide end-to-end document management solution, which includes the provision of physical document storage to achieve compliance with document retention policy of the federal government. We offer confidential, secure fire-proof and flood-proof, climate-controlled storage facility, where physical documents are systematically and methodically stored in archival boxes and placed on storage racks or cabinets with external labels, bar-codes for easy identification and retrieval. Using modern computer inventory system, we keep meticulous records of all boxes or files in storage, as well as items retrieved, delivered or returned while keeping track of where everything is for you. Our complete pick-up and delivery service ensure that we can pick-up or deliver your archival documents to you anywhere in the country.