Turnbull labels open data a 'strategic national resource'

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Turnbull labels open data a 'strategic national resource'

New policy aims to pull more data out of government.

The federal government will push agencies to release more of the data they hold and create to the public under a new open data policy released yesterday alongside its innovation statement.

The new 'public data policy statement' [pdf] labels the data held by the federal government a "strategic national resource" that could have a transformative effect on the growth of the economy, service delivery and policy outcomes, the document states.

It says the release of anonymised government data can create opportunities that "neither government or business can currently envisage".

As such, the federal public sector has been given a new directive to release non-sensitive data as open by default and work with the private and research sectors to make sure it is used for the benefit of the wider public.

The public sector has been told to make data available through easy-to-use APIs where possible, and in a machine-readable format with descriptive metadata. Open standards should be used, the policy states.

First cab off the rank

The federal government has partnered with Public Sector Mapping Agencies Australia to release two datasets to the Australian public: the geo-coded national address file (G-NAF) and administrative boundaries datasets.

Both were previously available as a commercial product and will now be free for anyone to use.

G-NAF pulls in address and geolocation data from ten different sources like the Australian Electoral Commission and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The administrative boundaries dataset is national collection of boundaries including government, statistical and electoral divisions.

“The previous licencing arrangements for accessing the G-NAF were highly restrictive, preventing optimal collaboration and data sharing between existing users,” Helen Owens, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet principal adviser for public data, wrote in a blog post.

“This resulted in underutilisation of the data."

It follows the October creation of a new Public Data Branch within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which combined the Department of Finance's existing open data team with the data policy and digital government strategy branches from the Department of Communications.

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