Access to Government Data (AU0010)
Action Plan: Australia National Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C: firstname.lastname@example.org), Department of Finance (Finance: email@example.com), National Archives of Australia (Archives: firstname.lastname@example.org) and Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE)
Support Institution(s): All Commonwealth entities; Data61, organisations outside of government (including Australian Library and Information Association, National Libraries of Australia and New Zealand, and Australian Policy Online
Policy AreasAccess to Information, Anti-Corruption, Capacity Building, E-Government, Environment and Climate, Extractive Industries, Land Rights and Spatial Planning, Open Data, Public Participation
Objective and description: Australia will make it easier for the public to find, access and use government data and information. We will do this by making greater use of central portals, digital platforms and other tools to improve discoverability and accessibility. Status Quo: The creation, preservation, management and public use of government information is fundamental to open and transparent government. The availability of government records and data improves public access to information, while also driving efficient business outcomes by facilitating use and reuse of these valuable resources. It is not enough just to make these resources open; information and public data must be easy to find and accessible in order for it to be useful. The National Library of Australia’s ‘Trove’ is an example of a highly used and successful central portal. Some specific examples of areas where the government is seeking to improve public access to information include: Public data: Data.gov.au is the Australian Government’s open data platform. It has enabled the open release of over 20,000 public resources used to grow the economy, improve service delivery and transform policy outcomes for the nation. As the number of datasets on data.gov.au grows, Australia’s public data infrastructure needs be upgraded to meet the demands of data users. This includes improving search and discovery, enhancing support for collaboration, developing a quality framework to assist publishers, and developing more robust publishing processes. Grants: There is no central point to identify and apply for Australian Government grant opportunities and find consolidated information about grants awarded. The Department of Finance is building GrantConnect, a central whole-of-government system that will forecast and publish grant opportunities, automatically notify public users of grant opportunities of interest, and publish information on grants awarded. Corporate and administrative reporting: Corporate and administrative reporting information is currently located on individual agency websites or in hard copy, making it difficult to compare and contrast documents. The Department of Finance is working to make reporting information more discoverable and accessible through the digitisation of this information. Archived records: The most significant records of the Australian Government are held by the National Archives of Australia. To facilitate citizens’ access to these records through digital and online channels, the Archives will continue to lead the transition from paper to digital information practices in Australian Government agencies, digitise paper records of high research value and increase the number of records available for public access. Environmental information: The Department of the Environment and Energy compiles significant data to produce its State of the Environment report and meet its other responsibilities (such as research into the impacts of coal and coal seam gas developments on ground water). The Department will make the State of the Environment 2016 report and its underlying data more accessible through SoE Digital (an innovative and interactive online platform) and data.gov.au. It will use data visualisation tools to help publish the results of its coal and coal seam gas bioregional assessments. Ambition: To make it as easy as possible to find, access and use government information and data. This will include making greater use of centralised, easy to access portals for information (e.g. for grants, and corporate / administrative reporting),, proactively publishing more information and data online, and keeping up to date with the latest technological developments. Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of access to information and technology and innovation by: promoting a consistent approach to information governance across Australian Government entities; increasing transparency of government decision-making and policy development; enabling information and data reuse for economic and social benefits; protecting the rights and entitlements of Australians to access government information; increasing the accessibility, usability and discoverability of public data; and improving the quality of data. COMMITMENT DETAILS; OGP Grand Challenge: Improving Public Services Increasing Public Integrity More Effectively Managing Public Resources; Timeframes Mid 2016 – Mid 2018; Lead agency: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C: email@example.com), Department of Finance (Finance: firstname.lastname@example.org), National Archives of Australia (Archives: email@example.com) and Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE); Other actors involved Government: All Commonwealth entities; Non-government: Data61, organisations outside of government (including Australian Library and Information Association, National Libraries of Australia and New Zealand, and Australian Policy Online)
IRM Midterm Status Summary
10. Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data and informationFor Details on this commitment, see https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/australia-mid-term-report-2016-2018-year-1/
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Commitment 10. Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data and information
Australia will make it easier for the public to find, access and use government data and information.
We will do this by making greater use of central portals, digital platforms and other tools to improve discoverability and accessibility.
- PM&C to upgrade and improve data.gov.au:
- work with Data 61 to conduct research and discovery into data consumption (to better understand user behaviours and needs) and publishing (to improve quality, timeliness and value of published data).
- work with Data61 to create, circulate and gather feedback on design concepts and prototypes for improved search functionality and user experience on the data.gov.au platform.
- deliver live platform elements for data.gov.au, including integration with NationalMap to provide a more efficient workflow for the publishing and discovery of spatial data.
- design and prototype further data.gov.au platform capabilities, including: functionality to promote examples and collaboration using public data; and integration with other platforms for open data projects and third party open data platforms.
- Finance to implement Phase One of the GrantConnect platform to enable public users to:
- register to receive notification on grant opportunities that match their self-defined profiles;
- watch forecast opportunities as they move from planning to requests for applications; and
- access grant guidelines for each opportunity and be notified about changes to grants processes.
- Finance to launch the pilot of the digital corporate and administrative reporting platform.
- National Archives of Australia to modernise and improve access to archived records:
- lead transition to digital information practices in Australian Government agencies and report progress to the Prime Minister in 2018;
- increase number of archival records available in digital formats, including World War II service and passenger arrival records; and
- make additional groups of archival records of high research interest available for public access.
- DoEE to improve the discoverability and accessibility of environmental information:
- launch a map-based tool to visualise Bioregional Assessment results; and
- publish the State of the Environment 2016 report through an online information publishing and reporting platform and release the underlying data on data.gov.au.
Responsible institution: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Department of Finance, National Archives of Australia, and Department of the Environment and Energy.
Supporting institution(s): CSIRO’s Data61
Start date: July 2016 End date: July 2018
This commitment combined a variety of initiatives to increase the accessibility and use of open government data with a general commitment to improve access to Commonwealth records. They include:
- Improving the functionality of data.gov.au, the Australian government repository of open data;
- Establishing GrantsConnect, a web-based portal to provide a central repository of information on government grants;
- Developing an easy-to-use platform allowing online access to annual reports and similar publications required of government entities, with search, comparison, and reporting features;
- Further developing use of digital information management practices and enhance access to archival records; and
- Making it easier to find and access environmental information, including spatial data relating to the impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining developments on water resources, and the collation of information to present a snapshot of the state of the environment in Australia.
Overall this commitment was substantially completed by the midterm.
Milestone 1: Data61 had analysed use of the data.gov.au website,  released prototype search functionality  and design concepts for facilitating project collaboration and promoting use examples. 
Milestone 2: This milestone was completed, with GrantConnect having been made publicly available on 6 February 2017. 
Milestone 3: The Department of Finance demonstrated prototypes of the platform in interviews for the Progress report, but these prototypes were not publicly available at the midterm of the national action plan.
Milestone 4: Archives released several elements of its Digital Continuity 2020 policy,  including an Information Management Standard in April 2017  and a Digital Authorisations Framework in November 2017.  Advice of an intention by the Department of Finance to implement a ‘Whole-of-Government Digital Records Platform’ to automate records management functions in line with the 2020 policy was announced in May 2017.  Archives also launched several digital access projects to make digitised archived records available in innovative ways. 
Milestone 5: The Department of Environment and Energy was testing the mapping tool for visualising bioregional assessments but it was not publicly available at the midterm of the national action plan.  The 2011 and 2016 State of the Environment reports were publicly available using the new digital platform on 7 March 2017,  with spatial data available on the National Map. 
End of term: Completed
This commitment has been completed.
Milestone 1: Responsibility for development, support, and ongoing operation of data.gov.au and progressing milestone 1 of this commitment was shifted to the Digital Transformation Agency.  The search functionality has continued to be updated with new interface available.  The Digital Transformation Agency continues to work publicly with Data61 to improve data.gov.au’s software. 
Milestone 2: During the period of the national action plan, there were 6,765 grant awards published by Commonwealth government entities on the GrantConnect platform, as well as 36 forecast (or possible future) opportunities.  Updated Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines took effect on 29 August 2017, requiring non-corporate Commonwealth agencies to publicise grant opportunity guidelines and individual grants awarded on the GrantConnect website. 
Milestone 3: The Department of Finance invited a small number of non-corporate Commonwealth entities to participate in the production and implementation of the new digital annual report prototype.  However, the results of this process have not been made public. The IRM researcher notes that on 13 March 2019, the Minister for Finance launched the transparency portal. This website is the outcome of the digital corporate and administrative reporting project piloted in the 2017-18 reporting period. By the end of 2019, the transparency portal will include the 2018-19 annual reports for all Commonwealth entities and companies in digital format. 
Milestone 4: The National Archives of Australia have publicly released the 2017 Digital Continuity Statement Whole-of-Government Snapshot.  The Snapshot revealed that agencies continued to make significant progress towards meeting the targets under the Digital Continuity 2020 policy. Check-up Plus  was released on 2 July 2018—a new survey used to collect data on Australian Government agencies' information management capabilities and behaviours, while assisting agencies in identifying and planning improvements in their information management practices. The report to the Prime Minister was delayed until 2019 to enable incorporation of data from the 2018 Check-up Plus survey.
A beta version of the information management and data capabilities website was also launched.  This website allows public sector staff, or information management professionals in particular, to identify necessary skills and knowledge in managing information and data. It will also provide links to relevant training or professional development opportunities provided by Archives. The Digital Records Transformation Program, being run by the Department of Finance in consultation with Archives and other stakeholders, has developed a high-level logical design for digital records management systems which will form the basis for a request for proposals.  The Department of Finance released a beta version of the Digital Records Transformation Initiative Sourcing Strategy Framework in July 2019.  Based on information provided to the OGP Forum, Archives have also continued to digitise and make available large numbers of archival records, including World War II service and passenger arrival records, more than 71,000 in response to applications from the public, and have also launched several digital access projects.  This milestone is therefore considered complete.
Milestone 5: The Bioregional Assessment Explorer was launched in January 2018 with access to the results for one of the bioregional assessments, with other assessments being made available when finalised.  Based on information provided to the OGP Forum, in the 10 months after the launch of the State of the Environment Report 2016 in March 2017,  the platform had attracted more than 80,000 unique visitors, 16,000 dataset views and 2,000 dataset downloads.  Spatial data used in the report can be explored through the State of the Environment instance of the National Map. 
Did It Open Government?
Access to Information: Major
In an interview for this report, James Horton, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Datanomics Pty Ltd and member of the Open Government Partnership Forum, suggested that the improvement to data.gov.au in milestone 1 has made it easier to discover and access open data on the portal, particularly through the use of a search function, but has not in itself increased the information available through the platform.  He also suggested that future use of data.gov.au is mainly dependent on both the quality and diversity of the data it contains and the willingness of government to encourage and support its use by the public. 
Prior to milestone 2 of this commitment, Commonwealth government grants were advertised on individual government agency websites or disseminated through other communication channels. The GrantConnect portal has created a central database of grants information, with agencies required to publish grant guidelines when they are issued and information on the grants once they have been awarded, which is increasingly used by government entities to forecast upcoming grant opportunities. In interviews for this report, the Department of Finance indicated that it intends to identify ways to measure the impact of the portal on the information available and analyse grant information across agencies and over time. 
As discussed above in relation to the completion of milestone 4, Archives continue to digitise archival records and make them available to the public, and the increasing use of digital record-keeping will potentially make access to information, for both government agencies and the public, easier in the future. Professor Simon Ville, Senior Professor of Economic and Business History at the University of Wollongong and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, praised the ongoing digitisation of records by Archives within the context of limited resources. 
In relation to milestone 5, the Department of Environment and Energy has reported that the State of the Environment Report released under milestone 5 had attracted more than 80,000 unique visitors, with more than 16,000 dataset views and 2,000 dataset downloads.  The bioregional assessments’ website was visited by more than 5,600 users in the first half of 2017.  Professor Andrew Macintosh, an environmental law expert from the Australian National University, praised the Explorer and State of the Environment Platform as examples of making what information there was available more accessible and useful for advocating for environmental consequences of policy decisions. 
This commitment is not carried forward in the second national action plan. The Progress Report recommended that the development of digital information management practices being led by Archives, under milestone 4 of this commitment, could be integrated with a review of information management laws, policies, and practices being conducted by the Attorney-General’s Department under Commitment 8. As discussed above under that commitment, facilitation of a general review of the Australian Public Service, which potentially includes information management practices, has been included in the second national action plan.  Interview with Nick Newhouse, PM&C, Canberra ACT, 15 September 2017.  Australian Government, Search for open data, http://search.data.gov.au/ ; blog.data.gov.au, Have your say on the next generation of data.gov.au, https://blog.data.gov.au/news-media/blog/have-your-say-next-generation-datagovau.  Australian Government, Technology preview, http://preview.data.gov.au/index.html (accessed 6/8/2018).  Department of Finance Blog, GrantConnect – Commonwealth Grant Opportunities, https://www.finance.gov.au/blog/2017/02/06-GrantConnect-Commonwealth-Grant-Opportunities/ (accessed 4/9/2018).  Archives, Digital Continuity 202 Policy, http://www.naa.gov.au/information-management/digital-transition-and-digital-continuity/digital-continuity-2020/index.aspx (accessed October 2015).  Archives, Information Management Standard, http://www.naa.gov.au/information-management/information-management-standard/index.aspx (accessed 4/9/2018).  Archives, Digital Authorisations and workflows, http://www.naa.gov.au/information-management/digital-transition-and-digital-continuity/information-is-managed-digitally/digital-authorisations-and-workflows/index.aspx (accessed 4/9/2018).  Archives, Whole-of-government digital records platform, http://www.naa.gov.au/information-management/digital-transition-and-digital-continuity/information-is-managed-digitally/Whole-of-Government-Digital-Records-Platform.aspx (accessed 4/9/2018).  These included tutorials on accessing World War I service records, http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/explore/defence/service-records/, and photographs documenting the post-war migration, http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/fact-sheets/fs254.aspx (accessed 29/04/2019).  Interview with Department of Environment and Energy, 21 September 2017.  Australia State of the Environment 2016, https://soe.environment.gov.au/how-why/soe-digital.  State of the Environment, https://soe.terria.io/  Data.gov.au, Background, https://data.gov.au/about.  Data.gov.au, https://search.data.gov.au/.  DTA contributes to Data61’s public discussion of the design concepts to improve collaboration and data consumption/data collaboration through our comments, issues, and pull requests on MAGDA’s Github Repository (https://github.com/magda-io/magda and https://github.com/magda-io/magda/graphs/contributors). DTA manages on Open Data community, https://community.digital.gov.au/c/open-data  GrantConnect, Grant Award published, https://www.grants.gov.au/?event=public.reports.GA.published.show&agencySearchType=0&dateStart=01-Feb-2017&dateEnd=30-Jun-2018&dateType=Publish+Date&valueStart=&valueEnd=&isAdhocGA=&selectionProcessUUID=&isAggregateGA=&confidentiality=&recipientName=&recipientABN=&GOID=&internalReferenceID=&submitCriteria=Display+Results  Department of Finance, Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines 2017, https://www.finance.gov.au/resource-management/grants/ (accessed 21/9/2018).  PM&C, 3.3 - Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data: Corporate and administrative reporting, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/commitment/australias-first-open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18/nap1-commitment-11 (accessed 29/4/2019).  Minister for Finance, Launch of the Government transparency website, 13 March 2019, https://www.financeminister.gov.au/media-release/2019/03/13/launch-government-transparency-website  Available at http://www.naa.gov.au/naaresources/dc2020-reports/2017DigitalContinuitySnapshot.PDF (accessed 21/9/2018).  NAA, Checkup Plus 2018, http://www.naa.gov.au/information-management/check-up/index.aspx (accessed 21/9/2018).  Information Management and Data Capabilities website, http://capabilities.naa.gov.au/  Department of Finance, Digital Records Transformation Program: Updates, https://www.finance.gov.au/digital-records-transformation-program/updates/ (accessed 21/9/2018).  Department of Finance, Digital Records Transformation Program: Updates, https://finance.gov.au/government/digital-records-transformation-initiative/more-digital-records-transformation-initiative (accessed 10 January 2020).  PM&C, Open Government Partnership Australia, 3.3 – Improve the discoverability of government data: Archived records, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/commitment/australias-first-open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18/nap1-commitment-12 (accessed 21/9/2018).  Bioregional Assessments, BA Explorer, http://explorer.bioregionalassessments.gov.au/.  Department of Environment and Energy, State of the Environment Report 2016, https://soe.environment.gov.au/  PM&C, Open Government Partnership Australia, 3.3 - Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data: Environmental information, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/commitment/australias-first-open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18/nap1-commitment-13 (accessed 21/9/2018).  Australia State of the Environment 2016, https://soe.terria.io/.  Telephone interview with James Horton, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Datanomics Pty Ltd and member of the Open Government Partnership Forum, 13 November 2018.  Ibid.  Interview Department of Finance, Canberra, 13 November 2018.  Telephone interview with Professor Simon Ville, 15 November 2018.  PM&C, 3.3 - Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data: Environmental information. https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/commitment/australias-first-open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18/nap1-commitment-13 (accessed 29/04/2019).  Ibid.  Professor Andrew Macintosh, Australian National University, telephone interview, 14 October 2018).  PM&C, Open Government Partnership Australia, Australian second Open Government National Action Plan 2018-20: Engage Australians in the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/commitment/australias-second-open-government-national-action-plan-2018-20/engage-australians (accessed 21/9/2018).
Strengthen Anti-Corruption Framework
AU0016, 2018, Anti-Corruption
Political Donation Transparency
AU0017, 2018, Legislation & Regulation
AU0018, 2018, Access to Information
Improve Public Service Practice
AU0019, 2018, Capacity Building
Access to Information
AU0020, 2018, Access to Information
Enhance Public Engagement Skills in the Public Service
AU0021, 2018, Capacity Building
Independent Review of the Australian Public Service
AU0022, 2018, Capacity Building
Expand Open Contracting
AU0023, 2018, Access to Information
AU0001, 2016, Anti-Corruption
Beneficial Ownership Transparency
AU0002, 2016, Anti-Corruption
Extractive Industries Transparency
AU0003, 2016, Anti-Corruption
Combating Corporate Crime
AU0004, 2016, Anti-Corruption
AU0005, 2016, Access to Information
Public Trust in Data Sharing
AU0006, 2016, Access to Information
Digitization of Government Services
AU0007, 2016, Capacity Building
Information Management and Access Laws
AU0008, 2016, Access to Information
Freedom of Information
AU0009, 2016, Access to Information
Access to Government Data
AU0010, 2016, Access to Information
Electoral System and Political Parties
AU0011, 2016, Political Integrity
National Integrity Framework
AU0012, 2016, Anti-Corruption
AU0013, 2016, Access to Information
AU0014, 2016, Public Participation
AU0015, 2016, Capacity Building