Unlocking Australia’s high-value data

The Australian government is keen to make more of its data publicly available, arguing that increasing the amount of published data will boost economic opportunity and innovation.

But it can be difficult to know which datasets the public is interested in using, so business, researchers and not-for-profits are being asked to tell the government what high value data they need to be more productive through an online engagement process released by Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation Angus Taylor last week.

The site, known as The Sourcefeatures a survey about which data should be released and barriers to accessing data, as well as a collaborative forum for discussing ideas.

The online component is part of a larger consultation effort. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet held the first high value data roundtable at the National Longitudinal Data Conference a month ago, which was attended by more than 30 members of the research sector, including representatives from the Australian Research Council, Research Australia, University of Tasmania, Monash University, University of Queensland, Roy Morgan Research and SA-NT Datalink. Other roundtables will be held in early 2017.

The government released a public data policy in December last year mandating that agencies should make non-sensitive data open by default in machine readable and anonymised form.

Currently there are around 23,400 discoverable datasets available on data.gov.au; the UK’s data.gov.uk has 36,500 on offer, while the US equivalent data.gov holds over 192,000.

Taylor said the government was aware of the immense potential of shared data to deliver improvements to everyday life.

“Our ability to solve many of the great challenges of our time rests on the effective sharing and analysis of data. As a public good, access to government data can grow the economy, improve services and transform policy outcomes for the country.

“Government wants to work closely with the private sector to realise the full potential of open data, while ensuring we have the world’s best protections against misuse of that data.”