Consultation on the draft ‘Sustainable Digital File Formats’

What is the purpose of the document?

To address the problem of ensuring that digital information created by the public sector remains usable for 10 to 100 years with minimal effort. The particular challenge of digital information is that it can only be accessed using programs. If you cannot find a suitable program to access a piece of digital information, that information is no longer usable.

The Consultation Draft can be found here.

How do we propose to achieve long term access?

To minimise the risk of loss of access to public sector information, we propose that staff only create information in formats that we expect to be accessible for the long term with minimal investment. The focus is on formats, not software products. Most software products can use many different formats, and most formats can be created and accessed by many software products. We are recommending formats that have the best chance of long term sustainable access; the product used to create or access the format is not of interest. We are not recommending that all digital information must be in a sustainable format. Some types of information have no suitable format; in which case we provide recommendations as to how to make the best choice of format.

What impact will this have on the public sector?

We believe that this recommendation will have minimal impact on the day-to-day operations of the public sector, or its costs. All formats proposed are common formats that are already in widespread use within the public sector.

What do we want you to do?

Please review the document and let us know what you think. You do not need to review the entire document.

We are particularly interested in the following questions:

  • Are there any types of information used in your organisation that are not reflected in the document?
  • Are any of the recommended formats not suitable for long term sustainability?
  • Are there formats that should be included, and, if so, why should they be considered as sustainable?

If you know anyone who may be interested in commenting on the document, please bring it to their attention.

Who prepared the document?

The document was prepared by the Australasian Digital Recordkeeping Initiative (ADRI). The members of ADRI are the State and Federal archives of Australia and New Zealand. ADRI is a key work program of the Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities (CAARA).

How do you comment on the document?

Please add your comments to the attached comment form,  and send them to

What is the deadline for comments?

The deadline for comments is Wednesday, 18 December 2019.