CultureNet Sweden (title)

Terms of Reference (title)


A strategy for the use of information technology (IT) by institutions in the cultural field
Terms of Reference 1995:129

Prescribed by the Government on 26 October 1995  

The nature of the inquiry
A special expert is to be appointed to inquire into and frame an integrated strategy for the use of information technology by authorities and institutions in the cultural field. This expert is in that connection to make recommendations for the establishment of a common Cultural Network. A final report on the inquiry is to be submitted by 15 November 1996 at the latest.

Information technology (IT) is used to collect, store, process, present and distribute sound, texts and images in electronic form. New technical solutions are leading to the integration of telecommunications and data communications, which can be linked together over geographical frontiers. The infrastructure, conditions of work and patterns of living in the community are in the process of being fundamentally changed.
The new information society is currently superseding the agricultural and industrial societies of the past. Today an ever growing number of activities are based on the handling of information and the ability to deal with vast amounts of data is being increasingly called for. IT is affecting economic growth and employment more and more. Through IT it has to a greater extent become possible for jobs to be located in geographically remote places and for people to be provided with electronic services in their homes. IT can change social and cultural patterns to a marked degree. This development is also making a great impact on cultural life. IT can provide fresh openings for artistic creation and for the exchange of thoughts, ideas and experience. Both in the European Union (EU) - and in the USA, Japan and other countries - long-term political strategies to promote the use of IT have been developed. In the EU, work to encourage producers of information to develop new goods and services is now in progress. The aim of the EU Commission's draft programme - INFO2000 - is to facilitate a change over from printed to electronic publication and to create favourable conditions for the development of the European multimedia industry. In Sweden a number of wide-ranging activities relating to the use of IT are being carried out under the auspices of the IT Commission, the Junior IT Council and the Top Managers' Forum.

In January 1995 the Top Managers' Forum presented a report, known as LEXIT, that was the outcome of a study undertaken under the aegis of the Data Inspection Board. The report drew attention to legal impediments to the rational use of IT in the public administration and also highlighted certain legal questions relating to archives. In June 1995 the IT Commission published a report,"A Programme of Action for 1995-96" (Swedish Official Reports series 1995:68). In regard to cultural questions, the IT Commission concludes in the report that at best technological developments may lead to greater variety in the cultural activities available for consumers of culture. For producers the impact will mean new ways of transmitting literature, art, music, films, the theatre and the dance; direct dialogues with consumers will become possible with the aid of the multimedia. New art forms may emerge. Museums, archives, libraries and the institutions that care for our cultural environment have for a long time been engaged in surveying, compiling documentation and registering various manifestations of our cultural heritage, right from folklore recordings to the listings of buildings. This has not only been fundamental for the preservation of the stock of knowledge for posterity, but also for drawing people's attention to, for instance, important historical monuments and cultural environments to which regard must be paid by the community. All in all, the institutions concerned with the Swedish cultural heritage are devoting a relatively large proportion of their resources to this kind of fact-finding. Therefore these institutions have also been engaged for a long time in building up systems for computer-based registration, which have subsequently been developed. The intention has not only been to facilitate the internal work of the institutions concerned, but also to make the cultural heritage more easily accessible to researchers and the general public. Various projects concerned with developing the use of IT are now being undertaken by certain bodies. Notable among them are the National Council for Cultural Affairs, the National Archives, the Central Board of National Antiquities, the Language and Folklore Institute, the Swedish Dictionary of National Biography, the Nordic Museum and the county record offices.

The Swedish Parliament has made appropriations for the 1995/96 fiscal year for a plan to "rescue" cultural treasures in museums and archives by registering, conserving and displaying them. The Ministry of Culture has charged a project-group to present a draft plan and an action programme for this "rescue" operation. In its report "Museum Collections - Open Sesame!" which was submitted in June 1995, the project-group recommends the building up of a database with nationwide distribution - with some parts available via the Internet - in order to make information from museums and archives accessible. In its report, "The Orientation of Cultural Policy" (Swedish Official Reports series 1995:84), the Commission on Cultural Affairs recently declared that new networks and information systems should be secured for the free exchange of ideas, and that databases in the cultural sector should be developed in order to make data accessible to the public. Furthermore, a special IT network, Sweden's Cultural Network, should also be established with a view to making the stock of knowledge and information held by the cultural institutions more widely available.

Points of departure
Every cultural institution should use IT so as to make its information accessible to other institutions and participants in the cultural sector, and also to researchers and the general public. This need not mean the use of new technologies, but existing ones could also provide the basis.
In the cultural sector it is essential that there should be good models for the use of IT that can be followed by other participants with similar problems. There is a great need for collaboration and coordination in regard to the supplying of information (common policy issues, legal and security questions), in regard to information platforms (use of standards, technical harmonization and joint arrangements for dealing with IT) and in regard to innovating activities (new ways of organizing and operating activities as well as projects with common applications). However, although common guidelines should provide a basis, each institution should as far as possible be responsible for its own use of IT. Each cultural institution should actively follow developments in the IT field and carefully assess the new technology to see what parts are most suitable for its own particular institution. It is imperative that use should be made of opportunities to expand and renew the stock of knowledge by surveys, documentation projects and the building up of registers, in the first instance at institutions concerned with the cultural heritage. The role of the State is crucial in the promotion of opportunities for everyone to be able to retrieve the information required. It is a fundamental democratic principle that all the people of this country should be assured the possibility of procuring information. The general public should have access to information held by the cultural institutions through, for instance, libraries and schools.

Opportunities in the future for the general public to gain access in this way to information and knowledge largely depend first, on to what degree for instance libraries and other cultural institutions are capable of using and adapting to the new technology and, second, on how user-friendly the latter is. Women and men should be treated equally and regard should be paid to the needs of those with functional disabilities. It should be made an explicit objective that, where information technology is concerned, there should be no division of the Swedish people into first- and second-class citizens.

The inquiry

The special expert is to submit recommendations for an overall strategy for the use of IT by cultural institutions, these recommendations to include one regarding the creation of a common Swedish Cultural Network. Accordingly, the special expert should make a survey of the use of IT by the cultural institutions and of any projects planned and should also specify the basic financial, technical and legal pre-requisites for an overall IT strategy within the cultural field. In addition, the special expert should endeavour to find open technical systems in which regard is paid to various forms of systematizing and cataloguing information in such a way that the user-friendliness aspect becomes a central one. The objective should be the development of new methods and the promotion of dialogues between the various producers of culture and the general public.
The special expert should keep herself informed of developments in the other Nordic countries and within the EU. The special expert should be entitled to propose measures in other respects that may arise out of the inquiry. If such proposals require an increased use of resources, the appropriate funding should be suggested.

The report on the inquiry

The inquiry should be conducted in close cooperation with the institutions and the other bodies in the cultural sector. During the course of the inquiry, the special expert should consult the IT Committee (Ju 1994:05) and the IT Commission (SB 1995:01).
The special expert must pay regard to the terms of reference for governmental committees concerning the reporting of consequences for regional policy (1992:50), concerning the scrutiny of the implications of public undertakings (1994:23) and concerning recording the consequences for equality between women and men (1994:124). By 24 May 1996 at the latest the special expert must submit an interim report on the overall IT strategy, on the survey concerning the current use of IT by institutions and concerning the projects that are planned. The final report on the inquiry must be presented by 15 November 1996 at the latest. (Ministry of Culture)



©1999 Bi Puranen