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Social Innovation

Preserving a nation’s digital cultural heritage

Digitalisation is more than a business concept. It’s a way to ensure our collective culture is archived and accessible for future generations.

New Zealanders are no different to populations around the globe – they are active internet and social media users, they are mobile and they are creating and consuming more digital content than ever. There are more than 500 thousand .nz domains registered1. On average, New Zealanders are spending almost six hours using the internet every day, almost two hours on social media and almost three hours using streaming content services2. Consumers in New Zealand have very high expectations about the customer experience, higher than their global counterparts3, and those expectations extend to digital and online services.

It’s no wonder, then, that International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates by the end of 2020, a quarter of the region’s top companies will be allocating at least ten percent of revenue to fuel digital strategies. IDC further estimates that by 2020 at least 55 per cent will be what it calls “digitally determined”, which includes a greater focus on digitally enabled products and services.4 Like many governments around the world, the New Zealand government has implemented a digital strategy and is working to take an ever more digital approach to delivery of services to its constituents.

New Zealand organisations and government agencies are undertaking a process of digitalisation in response to the digital lives and preferences of its people. All that digital transformation requires the creation, management, security and preservation of digitalised content.

The National Library of New Zealand is the government body charged with preserving the country’s history and cultural identity. Ongoing digitisation of content and digitalisation of services are critical to fulfilling that mission. It also has a clear mandate to make that data accessible to a range of users including researchers, historians, teachers, students and others, now and in the future.

Every day the Library digitises artwork and other physical objects from the country’s social, cultural, creative, scientific and other outputs, to be preserved and shared as digital versions. It has digitised over five million pages of historical newspapers (and counting). Every day it captures and stores New Zealand’s “born digital” material, which is content that has only ever been in digital form. For example, it has an ongoing remit to collect every website within the .nz web domain.

Not only must the National Library of New Zealand ensure the digital history of the country is structured and accessible, but that the authenticity of each item in its digital collection is preserved for generations to come. When you go to a museum or library archive, you expect that the physical object you view or reference is genuine and preserved as an original. The same expectations are placed on the digital objects in the National Library’s collection.

In order to ensure that in one hundred years’ time the person using the digital archive can have the confidence and trust to accept that each object is what it is supposed to be, the digital record of every object must be preserved as well as the object itself.

Besides addressing storage and accessibility challenges, through co-creation with the National Library of New Zealand and managed services provider Revera (now CCL), Hitachi technology is being used to tag digital objects with custom metadata. This ensures that every change or impact to an object in the Library’s digital collection is part of the bundle of information that is stored with that object, so its provenance can be verified and trusted.

The National Digital Heritage Archive is supported by a redundant data recovery site which simply means that if another earthquake hits and impacts the Library’s physical premises, the nation’s digital history will be protected.

Bill Macnaught is the National Librarian. He is proud that, thanks to technology from Hitachi, it is possible for any New Zealander to access the wealth of knowledge and history the National Library of New Zealand has collected in digital format on their behalf, and have trust in its authenticity.


  1. New Zealand Figures – Domain Name Commission
  2. New Zealand Digital and Social Communications Research
  3. Adobe: Australia and New Zealand have the Highest Customer Experience Expections in the World
  4. International Data Corporation: Digital Transformation

Solution By: Hitachi Vantara ANZ

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