Australian Government Records Interoperability Framework

Enabling a federated view of the information created by, for, and sent to, the Australian Government is central to achieving an effective transformation of records management practice.

Describing the meaning and characteristics of information in a consistent way makes it possible to achieve a federated view, despite the proliferation of systems and entities that create information. If this description is able to persist over time, and to be integrated into the everyday user experiences of the Australian Public Service, further innovation will become possible. This innovation will ideally include the ability to search and exchange data and information across all agencies, regardless of how something is described or where it is stored, subject to the legislation and other frameworks that exist.

The Australian Government Records Interoperability Framework (AGRIF, ‘the Framework’) is a semantic information model (or ontology) that clarifies the meaning of data associated with the structure and functions of the Australian Government. Clarity of meaning permits semantic interoperability, which means people and machines can understand the context of information. Maintaining and understanding context improves the usefulness of information for business purposes, and allows information to be managed as Commonwealth records in accordance with the regulatory framework.

The Framework follows the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Ontology Language (OWL2) recommendation, which is an open standard for information. Using OWL2 means it is possible to manage information as records using context and relationships, rather than relying on the design of technological systems. This kind of management approach helps everyone to understand what records mean. Knowing the meaning of records, as opposed to only knowing what they are, has many benefits including more precise search strategies, efficient data discovery and information use, and more effective records management.

AGRIF overview

The first release of the Framework can be used to improve the description, use, and management of unstructured natural language documents – such as email, reports, and policy – which make up many of the information assets created by the Australian Government. However, the Framework is able to describe the context and characteristics of any information asset associated with the Australian Government, including data resources or transaction records. The Framework builds upon existing information standards for the organisation and understanding of Australian Government information, such as:

The AGRIF is a key element for Digital Records Transformation. Adopting AGRIF will require changes in the technology provided, but will also allow for more effective integration.

In order for the AGRIF to cover Australian Government activity in a more sophisticated manner, the Department of Finance is partnering with the Australian National University to develop practical means of identifying requirements and extending the ontology.

Last updated: 17 January 2019