Update from Tonga: Cyclone Gita and the Office of the Public Service Commission (PSC)

27 Mar 2018

Satellite image of Cyclone GitaCyclone Gita

Rachel Donnelly is currently living in Tonga and working in records management with the PSC. Rachel has provided this report on Cyclone Gita and the work that has been undertaken in recovering the PSC's records.

On 12 February 2018 Cyclone Gita hit the Kingdom of Tonga. It brought destructive winds of up to 230km/h and damaged homes, infrastructure and the agricultural sector. At the Office of the Public Service Commission, 20% of our active personal files suffered water damage as a result of the cyclone. This represents between 700 and 800 files. Our cyclone preparations were no match for the force of the cyclone. We had made waterproofing preparations and ensured all files were raised off the ground – but the winds were so strong they smashed our windows, blew our shelves over and scattered files all over the wet ground.

We looked for the silver lining amongst all this destruction. Cyclone Gita presented us with a unique opportunity to fast track our digitisation project. The Office of the Public Service Commission has been diligently working through the PARBICA Recordkeeping for Good Governance Toolkit, and was well positioned to implement the project given the preparatory work that had already been completed. Using Guideline 15 on Scanning Paper Records to Digital Records, we decided on the equipment, technical standards and metadata to capture. Within one month, we had digitised all affected files to preserve the content of the files, so that it was not lost or destroyed while still needed. These scanned files have now been linked to our internal file flow system, which means that desk officers can access these files in just a few clicks. Feedback on this process so far has been very positive. Staff can see the benefits – they have easier access to records and our physical storage requirements have been reduced.

We are looking forward to reading the new Toolkit Guidelines on disaster management to see if we can improve our systems for the future.