ATO presses for govt-wide data storage

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ATO presses for govt-wide data storage

Targets administrative lags for information sharing.

The Australian Taxation Office is agitating for a shared data storage platform among federal agencies that could shave “several months” off lead times for data sharing.

The tax office’s proposal, contained in a submission to the Productivity Commission’s data availability and use inquiry, also targets a government-wide de-duplication of data holdings.

“The ATO extracts significant amounts of data from its systems, packages that information and transmits it to other government agencies to transform and load into their systems,” it said.

“The ATO also receives significant quantities of data from other government agencies, which it stores in its own warehouse.

“We recommend the APS [Australian public service] explore the range of possible solutions that could reduce the duplication of data storage between agencies and allow greater access to data held by government by multiple agencies, such as leveraging off existing infrastructure, adopting confidential computing and cloud-based solutions.”

Confidential computing is a Data61 invention that promises to make it simpler to analyse data from multiple sources – in this case, federal agencies – while keeping the original data files and safeguards for their use intact.

The main reason for the ATO’s push for shared data storage is to enable real-time access to data held by other agencies.

“It would provide agencies real-time access to data as the need arose, rather than relying on another agency to allocate resources for data to be extracted and transferred, and depending on the complexity of the dataset, could eliminate time lags of several months,” the ATO said.

The tax office said there were also other flow-on benefits like reducing, over time, the government’s IT storage spend and “the need for individual agencies to maintain the facilities, hardware and software to store and organise data".

“It may also assist efforts to safeguard data through a reduced number of points of vulnerability, although this would need to be assessed,” the ATO said.

“While this would require some initial investment in establishing a new data centre, outsourcing the provision of the service, or re-purposing existing information technology, there would be multiple short and long term returns on the investment.”

The ATO also advocated for data storage standards across federal agencies to streamline ETL processes and “to increase the portability of staff across agencies, allowing the transfer of resources to where they are needed at a point in time".

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