Email eDiscovery – How to be Compliant With Request for Information Legislation

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email eDiscovery

Local governments are no longer just about rubbish, rates and roundabouts. Local governments  are major organisations who must meet numerous legislative requirements whilst also achieving noble goals. The above is epitomised by Sydney’s Inner West Council’s vision ‘To work together in a way that is creative, caring and just.’

This delicate balance is played out daily in numerous ways across every department; and no more so than in Local Government IT departments. Everyday Local Government IT teams try to undertake seemingly straightforward tasks, such as email retrieval, in the most cost effective and timely manner possible. 

But this is where the seemingly straight-forward becomes unreasonably difficult. In this blog we discuss how Local Government IT teams are successfully balancing their regulatory requirements whilst ensuring exceptional user experiences that enable their internal customers to help deliver on the greater councils’ grand visions. 

The Situation

It’s a typical day and a concerned citizen makes an official information request (i.e in line with say the Australian Archives Act 1983, NZ Public Records Act 2005, Official Information Act 1982 orLocal Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 - LGOIMA) for a series of emails and associated attachments the mayor sent two years ago. The request response team are required to find, retrieve and release the relevant email, including all the associated attachments, within a tight timeframe; along with other, more pressing deadlines. 

The results can’t be good enough. To properly comply, the IT team needs to supply complete and accurate emails no matter if they are located across multiple users’ live email accounts or if the emails are archived in historical accounts of users that have left a long time ago.

The Scenarios

With the ongoing efforts made by many local governments to move more email to the cloud e.g. Microsoft Office 365, IT teams are faced with two options. 

The first is to use Microsoft 365’s native email search functionality. For some local governments this is completely adequate. The type of email solutions the IT team have deployed, the way it is configured and the licensing options they have chosen all do the job perfectly. For those of you in this situation, don’t read on! 

But often, IT teams are faced with the need to firstly check that the specified user account is still licenced and therefore can be accessed, before searching multiple databases to find all relevant data. Finally, they need to collate that information and send it on. Sometimes, even more frustratingly, they find that the email account wasn’t set up correctly for eDiscovery and the information they need is not available. 

For organisations that face this scenario there’s another option that local governments such as  Tasman District Council, Waimakariri District Council and many others are using. We call it SMX Accelerate. 

SMX Accelerate enables email messages to be stored as complete records (including attachments, headers and all meta-data) in a tamper-proof fashion that makes email messages easily and readily available for teams required to carry out the task of eDiscovery to comply with legislation.

In the scenario above, the request response team would simply open their SMX Portal , set the parameters for the search, conduct the search, extract the relevant emails, view and save them to a suitable location ready to be safely passed on to the concerned citizen.

With SMX Accelerate, there is no need to search multiple databases as every email is automatically archived as per the local council’s requirements. User licences don’t constrain the ability to archive all current and previous email accounts and there’s no extra time needed to set up email accounts in the correct way to ensure eDiscovery is possible if needed in the future. 

So there you have it. With these options, legislative requirement compliance should be easier and quicker; leaving local governments free to achieve their wider organisation goals.