NSW DAC grows beyond 'two people and a pot plant'

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NSW DAC grows beyond 'two people and a pot plant'
Ian Opperman

Data science unit gets 22 new projects.

At just over a year old, the NSW government’s data analytics centre has grown to 25 people working on 22 different analytics projects under the tutelage of chief data scientist Ian Opperman.

Opperman told the GovInnovate conference last week that it is a long way from the “two people and a pot plant” than made up the DAC in January this year.

“We are doing slightly better,” he told the audience.

The dedicated analytics unit, unveiled by Innovation Minister Victor Dominello in August 2015, received $16.8 million for the coming four years in the 2016 state budget.

It has just kicked off its second round of data-driven projects, which will include a probe into the mysterious cause of a sudden 50 percent increase in Sydney pedestrian deaths after years of declining figures.

The DAC crowdsourced some of its thinking from a 300-student hackathon, where competitors set upon “hundreds of datasets” over 48 hours.

It is now working to layer spatial and temporal risk factors on top of time, weather, transport data and demographic features of pedestrians for every square metre of the Sydney CBD.

“We are looking for needles in the haystack,” Opperman said.

The agency is also trying to figure out whether NSW’s vocational education system is producing graduates with the right skills for Australian industry.

Machine reading technology has been used to process course descriptions for all 1200 TAFE units offered in the state against a similar text analysis of all the jobs advertised in NSW at the same point in time.

He said the exercise has revealed “interesting mismatches in the skills that are being sought in job ads and the skills that are being supplied through those TAFE courses”.

“We spend $1.5 billion a year on vocational education, so we want to know if we are getting value for money," Opperman said.

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