Australia to get national data commissioner

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Australia to get national data commissioner

New custodian part of $65m package.

Australia is set to get its first national data commissioner, in part to build public trust in the government as the custodian of significant data assets.

The creation of the commissioner role is one of a series of measures unveiled by the government today that will collectively cost $65 million over the next four years.

They form the government’s official response [pdf] to a Productivity Commission report into data availability and use that was released a year ago.

Other major initiatives that the government has committed to include:

  • New legislative and governance arrangements to enable better use of data across the economy “while ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place to protect sensitive information”; and
  • The introduction of a consumer data right, which the government formally committed to at the end of last year.

The commissioner is being pitched as the “trusted overseer of the public data system”, finding ways to “promote greater use of data” while “building trust” in the government’s capabilities in that area.

Trust in the government’s capabilities has wavered in recent years by episodes including the publication of de-identified health records that researchers used to re-identify patients.

Questions were also raised last week about how the Australian Bureau of Statistics used “aggregate level telecommunications data” as part of a pilot study into population movement.

The government said today that the new data commissioner would “provide a consistent and well-defined approach to data management, including proactively managing risks, dealing with complaints and monitoring the integrity of the data sharing and release framework”.

“This will increase community trust and confidence in the way government manages and uses its data,” it said.

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics will provide technical guidance and support to the national data commissioner.

“[In addition], a new National Data Advisory Council will advise the national data commissioner on ethical data use, technical best practice, and industry and international developments.”

The government noted the need for a “cultural change ... from agencies” when it came to data sharing arrangements.

It said in part that “better legislative and governance arrangements” would enable it “to meet community expectations to be efficient and to use the data it already has more productively”.

Part of the governance arrangements to be established include the appointment of “accredited data authorities” to work with data custodians and users.

They also cover the introduction of accompanying ‘data sharing and release’ legislation.

“This legislation will establish institutional and governance arrangements including
accredited data authorities and a trusted user framework to facilitate better sharing of data,” the government said.

“The legislative package will set clear rules and expectations for data sharing and release, including making clear when data can be shared, and embedding strong safeguards for sensitive data and effective risk management practices.”

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