Legal Requirements for Digitization of Information: Chapter Adm 12.

Wisconsin law does not require the University of Wisconsin System to maintain public records in electronic format. Therefore, University institutions may maintain public and University records in either paper or electronic form. Under Wisconsin law, however, University institutions shall comply with the following legal requirements when public records are created, received, and/or stored solely in electronic format, within information technology systems.. 


The purpose of this chapter is to ensure that public records in electronic format are preserved and maintained and remain accessible for their designated retention period.

B. ADM 12.03 SCOPE.

This chapter establishes defined requirements, standards and guidelines for state and local government accessibility of electronic public records from creation through active use, long–term management, preservation and disposition. This chapter does not require an agency to maintain public records in electronic format.


In this chapter:

  1. “Accessible” means information arranged, identified, indexed or maintained in a manner that permits the custodian of the public record to locate and retrieve the information in a readable format within a reasonable time.
  2. “Accurate” means all information produced exhibits a high degree of legibility and readability and correctly reflects the original record when displayed on a retrieval device or reproduced on paper.
  3. “Authentic” means the retained electronic record correctly reflects the creator’s input and can be substantiated.
  4. “Content” means the basic data or information carried in a record.
  5. “Context” means the relationship of the information to the business and technical environment in which it arises. “Context” can include, but is not limited to, such elements as: the origin of the record; date and time the record was created; identification of the record series to which the information belongs.
  6. “Electronic format” includes information created, generated, sent, communicated or stored in electrical, digital, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic or similar technological form.
  7. “Information system” means a system for generating, sending, receiving, storing or otherwise processing data.
  8. “Legible” means the quality of the letters, numbers or symbols can be positively and quickly identified to the exclusion of all other letters, numbers or symbols when displayed on a retrieval device or retrieved by device or reproduced on paper.
  9. “Life cycle” means all phases of a record’s existence: creation, active use, preservation and management through to disposition.   “Disposition” includes permanent preservation as well as designation for destruction.
  10. “Meaning” means a record carries its original content, context and structure throughout its life cycle.
  11. “Public record” has the meaning given in s. 16.61 (2) (b), Stats.
  12. “Readable” means the quality of a group of letters, numbers or symbols is recognized as words, complete numbers or distinct symbols.
  13. “Reliable” means the electronic record produced correctly reflects the initial record each time the system is requested to produce that record.
  14. “Structure” means the appearance or arrangement of the information in the record. “Structure” can include, but is not limited to, such elements as heading, body and form.


State and local agencies shall comply with all statutes and rules relating to public records. With regard to public records stored exclusively in electronic format, state and local agencies shall do all of the following:

  1. Maintain electronic public records that are accessible, accurate, authentic, reliable, legible, and readable throughout the record life cycle. 
  2. Document policies, assign responsibilities, and develop appropriate formal mechanisms for creating and maintaining electronic public records throughout the record life cycle. 
  3. Maintain confidentiality or restricted access to records or records series maintained in electronic format, limiting access to those persons authorized by law, administrative rule or established agency policy. 
  4. Utilize information systems that accurately reproduce the records they create and maintain. 
  5. Describe and document public records created by information systems.
  6. Document authorization for the creation and modification of electronic public records and, where required, ensure that only authorized persons create or modify the records.
  7. Design and maintain new information systems so that these systems can provide an official record copy for those business functions accomplished by the system.
  8. Develop and maintain information systems that maintain accurate linkages, electronically or by other means, to transactions supporting the records created where these linkages are essential to the meaning of the record.
  9. Utilize information systems that produce records that continue to reflect their meaning throughout the record life cycle.
  10. Utilize information systems that can delete or purge electronic records created in accordance with the approved retention schedule.
  11. Utilize information systems that can export records that require retention to other systems without loss of meaning.
  12. Utilize information systems that can output record content, structure and context.
  13. Utilize information systems that allow records to be masked to exclude confidential or exempt information.


This rule first applies to public records stored exclusively in electronic format and to information systems acquired or substantially modified after the effective date of the rule: May 1, 2001.