Data Innovation (AU0005)
Action Plan: Australia National Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Support Institution(s): Commonwealth Government agencies, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, and state and territory and local governments; Non-government organisations (including Australian Open Government Partnership Network, Open Knowledge Foundation, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Australian Privacy Foundation), research, not-for-profit and private sectors
Policy AreasE-Government, Fiscal Transparency, Open Data, Public Participation
Objective and description: Australia will continue to make more public data openly available and support its use to launch commercial and non-profit ventures, conduct research, make data-driven decisions, and solve complex problems. As part of this, we will work with the research, not-for-profit and private sectors to identify the characteristics of high-value public datasets, and to promote innovative use of data to drive social and economic outcomes. Status Quo: Public data2 is a valuable national resource and its use and reuse can help grow the economy, improve service delivery and transform policy outcomes. While significant progress has been made to advance the public data agenda within Australia, further work needs to be done to harness the full value of this resource. The Australian Government’s Public Data Policy Statement requires Australian Government entities to make non-sensitive data open by default. While government agencies will continue to release non-sensitive data, priority should be given to releasing, curating and streamlining access to datasets which have the greatest potential to deliver social and economic outcomes for the country. Ongoing engagement with non-government stakeholders is required to identify the characteristics of high-value datasets (such as format, accessibility, metadata and attributes), and discover barriers to accessing and sharing data. The public, research, not-for-profit and private sectors can innovate with this data in order to generate new business, develop new products and services, and create social value. It is of the utmost importance though that the release of data not compromise people’s privacy and personal details. The Government has provided some support to date, including through the Open Data 500 Australia3 and the DataStart initiative.4 There is now the opportunity to build and expand on these pilot initiatives to encourage the use of public data for social and economic outcomes. In the Government’s policy for Better and More Accessible Digital Services,5 the Government committed to working with research, not-for-profit and private sectors to identify high-value public datasets for release. This will be supported by a public registry of significant non-sensitive datasets yet to be published on data.gov.au. The Government is also establishing a $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program to incentivise local councils to open up their data and collaborate with communities, local business, not-for-profits and research institutes to create innovative solutions to urban problems.6 The Productivity Commission has released a draft report7 on data availability and use that seeks to identify the characteristics (and provide examples) of public datasets that would provide high-value to the public, research and private sectors, as well as the community. Ambition: To develop an open dialogue between government and non-government sectors to identify characteristics of high-value data and to stimulate greater use and re-use of public data in innovative ways. Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of access to information, technology and innovation and public participation by: identifying and prioritising high-value datasets for priority release; understanding how Australian businesses and not-for-profits are using public data; stimulating use and re-use of public data in innovative ways; encouraging the use of public data to create social value; identifying and addressing barriers impeding the sharing of and access to data; and fostering a dialogue on how public data can be made more useful. COMMITMENT DETAILS: OGP Grand Challenge: More Effectively Managing Public Resources Improving Public Services; Timeframes December 2016 – July 2018; Lead agency; Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (firstname.lastname@example.org) Other actors involved: Government: Commonwealth Government agencies, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, and state and territory and local governments; Non-government: Non-government organisations (including Australian Open Government Partnership Network, Open Knowledge Foundation, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Australian Privacy Foundation), research, not-for-profit and private sectors
IRM Midterm Status Summary
5. Release high-value datasets and enable data driven innovation
Australia will continue to make more public data openly available and support its use to launch commercial and non-profit ventures, conduct research, make data-driven decisions, and solve complex problems.
As part of this, we will work with the research, not-for-profit and private sectors to identify the characteristics of high-value public datasets, and to promote innovative use of data to drive social and economic outcomes.
- Consultation to assess barriers to using data, identify the characteristics of ‘high-value’ data and help inform the development of the High-Value Dataset Framework, including:
- Roundtable discussions with the research, private and not-for-profit sectors
- Undertake the second round of the Open Data 500.
- Broader public consultation through surveys, social media and blog posts.
- Undertake regular meetings of the Government Open Data Community Forum for public servants from federal, state and territory, and local government to share experience and discuss their ongoing open data work.
- Identify and release high-value data:
- Develop the High-Value Dataset Framework (informed by public consultation).
- Develop and release a public registry of significant non sensitive datasets yet to be published on data.gov.au
- Release non-sensitive data by default, with a focus on releasing high-value datasets.
- Stimulate innovative use and re-use of public data:
- Review and publicise the outcomes from the pilot DataStart initiative.
- Expand the DataStart initiative.
- Provide support and mentoring at GovHack events.
Responsible institution: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Supporting institution(s): See the Australian National Action Plan for a full list.
Start date: December 2016 End date: July 2018
Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text, see the Australia National Action Plan available at https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Australia_NAP_201...
Context and Objectives
This commitment seeks to increase the quality and quantity of government datasets released to the public. In its 2010 Declaration of Open Government, the Commonwealth government made a commitment to act on the key principle of making government information more accessible and usable. To assist government agencies, data.gov.au was released in 2011, and then substantially rebuilt in 2013, to act as a central repository of government held data.
The Public Sector Data Management Project, an Australian Public Service study commissioned in 2015 on how the Australian Public Service manages public sector data, acknowledged that access to government data was still limited. The project report found that access was restricted through a lack of understanding of the scope of the government’s data holdings and the potential demand for that data both inside and outside of government. Data.gov.au was not widely utilised, and there was an inconsistent approach to charging for access to government held data.
Another report by the Productivity Commission on data use and availability found that Australia’s provision of open access data was below comparable countries. There was considerable scope to improve the range of datasets published, and to improve their formatting and frequency. An entrenched culture of risk aversion and ‘often perverse incentives’ inhibited more widespread data discovery, analysis and use. The Commission recommended that the government ‘engage actively with the community on matters related to data availability and use’, including, ‘[a]t a minimum, …[convening] forums for consultation, to ensure community concerns about increased use of data are addressed.’ PM&C established a task force with representatives from various government departments and agencies to prepare the government’s response to the Commission’s report.
The elements of this commitment largely represent a number of commitments relating to increasing access to government data made by the present government prior to the finalisation of the national action plan. The response to the Productivity Commission Report may have a considerable impact on the extent they are completed or overtaken by alternative approaches to the release and use of high-value datasets.
Milestone 5.1 recognises that limited resources require priority be given to identifying and releasing datasets that have the greatest potential benefits. The consultation process will provide opportunities for civic participation through the roundtables and other opportunities presented to inform the government’s approach to identifying and releasing high-value datasets. This milestone also aims to undertake the second round of the Open Data 500 project, a collaboration between GovLab, a team of researchers at New York University, and the Australian Government Department of Communications. The Open Data 500 project identified and surveyed Australian companies and non-profit organisations on their use of open data as a business or operation resource.
By exposing the process of developing and use of a High-Value Dataset Framework to public scrutiny (Milestone 5.2), the consultation process will also increase the information available to the public.
In milestone 5.3, the Datastart initiative sought to elicit and support development of innovative uses of government data, incorporating the use of technology to increase access and benefits from access to information. The Datastart initiative is a partnership between the PM&C and Australian incubator, Pollenizer, established in November 2015. The initiative involved a competitive process to select a business idea that leverages openly available data from the Australian Government with the successful candidate receiving seed funding and government and private sector support. By utilising government data on service delivery, some of the projects considered also potentially had the effect of increasing public participation or accountability.
This milestone also provides for support and monitoring of ‘GovHack’ events. The Government 2.0 task force, which was commissioned to examine how governments could benefit from the internet, established ‘GovHack’ in 2009 as a competition to encourage use of government data. GovHack has now developed into an annual competition, run by volunteers, to develop projects using open government data over the course of 46 hours.
Although most of the elements of this commitment reflect pre-existing government policy, there are few details in the commitment language or other publicly available information about their intended implementation. For example, the number and extent of roundtable discussions, forms and potential impact of broader public consultation, and the number and issues to be considered by the meetings of the Government Open Data Community Forum, are not set out. The commitment to release non-sensitive data by default is made as an ongoing commitment without timeframes for when and how any change in government practice will commence or necessary intermediate steps other than the issue of the Public Data Policy Statement already in place. The nature of any expansion of the DataStart initiative is not made clear, particularly in light of similar initiatives in other government agencies.
The potential impact of this commitment is moderate. It is acknowledged that making government data open can have significant economic benefits as well as empowering individuals, increasing competition and product and service innovation, improving government service delivery, decision making and accountability, and enhancing social outcomes from research. However, as the commitment recognizes, it is difficult to anticipate the potential value of the release of any additional datasets. The intended impact of the commitment is to develop a framework to prioritise the release of datasets based on their potential value. How many additional datasets are made available and their potential value will also depend on a variety of factors. These include the resources made available within government agencies to implement any high-value framework or otherwise respond to public demand for release of particular datasets, and remaining barriers to greater release of government information such as the legislative and governance context and cultural attitudes within agencies.
In the open meeting held in Canberra in preparing this report, some participants were concerned about the low level of awareness of the open data issue, certainly prior to the release of the Productivity Commission’s report in March 2017, and the range of bodies or interests represented in the roundtable discussions. They also suggested that more might have been done to increase the capacity of participants to contribute by increasing the level of information about current datasets that might be available and focusing attention away from the technical aspects of how information will be published. The increasing use of open data at the State and Territory level and the need to facilitate access and data sharing among different levels of government was also raised.
Cameron Shorter, an open source advocate, commented on the success of the GovHack event in increasing awareness of the availability of government data and encouraging innovative approaches to its use. However, he raised concerns over the attendance of a limited range of community interests at those events and the potential to lead to sustained development of high impact products and services. Mel Flanagan, an open data advocate, content creator and developer, pointed out the potential benefits of expanding the Datastart initiative in bridging the gap between initial ideas developed through events like GovHack and supporting them through to broader development and implementation.
Milestone 5.1 was completed to a limited degree. Roundtable discussions commenced on 25 October 2016, and were attended by more than 30 members of the research sector as part of the National Longitudinal Data Conference, including representatives from the Australian Research Council, Research Australia, universities and other research organisations. There were also roundtables held in Sydney on 20-21 February 2017 and Melbourne on 28 April 2017. The PM&C also established an online survey which was advertised on a blog post but received only one publicly available response. PM&C did not make feedback from those roundtable discussions publicly available.
Discussions with PM&C in preparing this report indicated that they made a public call for responses and contacted individuals who had participated in the Productivity Commission’s inquiry on Data Availability and use and other academics, individuals and peak bodies to try to raise awareness of the roundtables and the issues relating to high-value data. PM&C also believes that the work undertaken by the Productivity Commission to explore attitudes on a process to identify National Interest Datasets and other consultations has made a second round of the Open Data 500 survey unnecessary. PM&C also indicated that it was still organising regular meetings of the Government Open Data Community Forum.
Milestone 5.2: This milestone has only limited completion. In interviews for this report, PM&C indicated that work on developing a High-Value Dataset Framework had been delayed while the Data Availability and Use Taskforce was considering the recommendations of the Productivity Commission report, which included detailed recommendations on such a framework. PM&C has also not commenced establishing a public registry of significant non-sensitive datasets.
Milestone 5.3: This milestone has seen limited completion. PM&C indicated that they had reviewed the pilot Datastart initiative but the review was no longer publicly available at the time of writing. PM&C also indicated that they were intending to expand the Datastart initiative but were working with other government departments to possibly consolidate the range of initiatives available in this area. PM&C, with 11 other Commonwealth agencies, were also significant supporters of the GovHack events held across the country in July 2017 after the implementation period considered by this report.
There are no early results available.
Elements of this commitment may be affected by the Data Availability and Use Taskforce in responding to the Productivity Commission’s report. However, development of a high-value dataset framework is likely to remain a priority and should be reflected in the next national action plan. Consideration should be given to ongoing roundtable discussions, or establishment of a multi-stakeholder forum involving the research, private and not-for-profit sectors as well as Commonwealth, State, Territory and local government representatives. This body could assist in monitoring and evaluating the operation of any framework developed, as well as encouraging greater coordination among different levels of government.
 Lindsay Tanner, Declaration of Open Government, 2010, https://www.finance.gov.au/blog/2010/07/16/declaration-open-government/
 Gary Grey, ‘Release of Data.gov.au’, 10 March 2011, https://www.finance.gov.au/blog/2011/03/10/release-datagovau/
 Pia Waugh,’New data.govv.au – now live on CKAN’ 17 July 2013, https://www.finance.gov.au/blog/2013/07/17/new-datagovau-%E2%80%93-now-live-ckan/
 Public Sector Data Management Project, https://www.pmc.gov.au/public-data/public-sector-data-management-project.
 PM&C, Public Sector Data Management: Implementation report’, https://www.pmc.gov.au/resource-centre/public-data/public-sector-data-management-implementation-report.
 Finding 1.1 at p 76.
 Finding 3.5 at p 153.
 PM&C, ‘Data Availability and Use Taskforce’, https://www.pmc.gov.au/public-data/data-availability-and-use-taskforce
 Interim Report, August 2015, https://www.communications.gov.au/publications/open-data-500-report. The responses to the survey, https://data.gov.au/dataset/open-data-500-australia-responses
 Winner of DataStart, https://www.pmc.gov.au/news-centre/data/cohortiq-announced-winner-datastart
 The Business Research and Innovation Initiative by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, https://www.business.gov.au/assistance/business-research-and-innovation-initiative. Note that there are is also a program for commonwealth entities to receive support for initiatives increasing the availability or innovative use of high-value datasets or services, https://www.pmc.gov.au/public-data/open-data/platforms-open-data
 For example, the Bureau of Communications Research estimated the value of government data in Australia of up to $25 billion per year.
 Canberra open forum, 29 August 2017.
 This was also commented upon by Jessie Cato, National Coordinator, Publish What You Pay Australia, Melbourne, Vic, 24 August 2017.
 Interview with Cameron Shorter, Open Source advocate, Sydney NSW, 23 August 2017.
 Cameron Shorter, ‘Making GovHack (and open government) more impactful’, The Mandarin, 18 August 2017, https://www.themandarin.com.au/82472-making-govhack-open-government-more-impactful/.
Mel Flanagan, Director Nook Studios, Sydney NSW, 23 August 2017.
 PM&C, ‘High-Value Data Roundtables Commence’, https://www.pmc.gov.au/news-centre/public-data/high-value-data-roundtables-commence (accessed 6/4/2018).
 Blog.data.gov.au, ‘High-Value Data Roundtables commence’, https://blog.data.gov.au/news-media/blog/high-value-data-roundtables-commence.
 For example, media release from Angus Taylor MP, Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Asking business, researchers what high value data they need, 17 November 2016, https://ministers.pmc.gov.au/taylor/2016/asking-business-researchers-what-high-value-data-they-need
 Interview with PM&C, Canberra ACT, 7 September 2017.
 Australian Government, Midterm Self-Assessment Report for Australia’s First Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18, 20.
 Interview with Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra ACT, 7 September 2017
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