Assessing Digital Sustainability: The Digital Sustainability Model

Christoph Becker, Emily Maemura, Nathan Moles, Jess Whyte, Jess Mann

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingTechnical report


Digital sustainability is the capacity of digital resources to endure. It means that the digital resources are preserved, that the life cycle of the organization is predictable, and that the life cycle of the assets is known to be safe beyond the life cycle of the organization. We consider the ideal state of digital sustainability one in which a proactive organization continuously optimizes its digital preservation capabilities towards its identified responsibilities and goals to effectively balance cost, benefit and risk, and is thus able to sustain digital resources for a community that endorses the value provided by digital sustainability. This report presents a framework – a model, method and tool – to support organizations in evaluating their digital sustainability in order to identify and prioritize ways to improve it. The Digital Sustainability Model (DSM) aims to support organizations in evaluating their abilities, strengths and weaknesses by supporting a structured self-assessment process that can be completed quickly, yet provides robust insight and useful input for actions to improve over time. The model has been designed to be extensible and evolve over time. The framework and all components are freely available with licenses that encourage adoption and derivative works with attribution. We explain the design process and the model, and shortly report on two case studies that evaluated its application to assess two organizations with advanced capabilities. We highlight how this empirical evaluation, combined with an independent third-party review, has led to changes in the framework that make it more robust. We conclude with an outline of future opportunities and planned initiatives.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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