The federal government will transform data.gov.au into a ‘one-stop shop’ for open data as part of a national data strategy aimed at maximising data use and re-use across the economy.
The whole-of-economy data strategy, released on Tuesday, is the first time the government has outlined its plan for Australia to become a “modern, data-driven society by 2030”.
It complements the recently updated digital strategy, in which the government has pledged to have all of its services available online by 2025, and the digital economy strategy released earlier this year.
With data seen as increasingly valuable to the economy, the four-year strategy aims to maximise its importance by building the capabilities for ethical use, while ensuring data remains protected across its entire lifecycle.
“Data can create new value when shared between different levels of government, and the private and non-government sectors,” the strategy states under one of its three key pillars.
The strategy signals the government’s “intent to use data to bring tangible benefits to the Australian people”, bringing together the various initiatives underway to improve “data settings”.
Data is also increasingly seen as the “lifeblood” of Australia’s digital economy, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month claiming it as an “economic beachhead” to assist with the Covid recovery.
The government has previously cited the effective use of health and travel-related data during the pandemic as a reason for the greater sharing of data between governments, for example.
Much of the vision outlined in the strategy, however, relies on the passage of the Data Availability and Transparency (DAT) Bill, which – in its current form – does not have bipartisan support.
The bill will make it easier for agencies to share public sector data between themselves and the private sector for three purposes: service delivery, informing policy, and research and development.
It will do this by creating an alternative pathway for sharing that bypasses some 500 data secrecy and confidentiality provision in 157 pieces of existing legislation.
Data.gov.au as a 'one-stop shop'
Accompanying the strategy is an action plan containing a handful of data initiatives, most of which already exist.
One of the few initiatives that is new is a “new ‘front door’ to access Australian Government open data”, which will involve enhancing the existing data.gov.au portal by the end of 2022.
“The government is starting work to transition the data.gov.au website to become the ‘one-stop shop’ for all Australians interacting with Australian government data,” the action plan states.
While it is not clear what this will involve, plans for the one-stop shop are separate to the “single front door” for third parties to request access to public sector data, called Dataplace.
Dataplace is expected to make it easier to discover and request access to data, including under the data sharing scheme that the DAT bill will enact.
In addition to the data.gov.au upgrades, the government also plans to establish a new international data policy function within the Australia Public Service to work on global data initiatives.
The function is expected to “coordinate with policy experts across governments to provide support and advice the Australian representatives overseas.
The action plan will also see the government define “ownership and property rights for data” and “expand domestic and cross-border data flows” by the end of 2023.
Existing initiatives include expanding the consumer data right to the energy and telecommunications sectors, the ongoing review of the Privacy Act and the national disability data asset.
The government is also continuing with a plan to make data assets discoverable and support whole-of-economy reuse, which will involve building data inventories for 20 percent of agencies from 2022.
Employment Minister Stuart Robert, who has carriage of the government’s digital and data agenda, said the strategy sets a four-year path for “Australia’s data system”.
“The data strategy is part of our commitment to delivery better services to all Australians, and it will power our national ambition to become a modern, data-driven society by 2030,” he said.
“Through the strategy and accompanying action plan, we outline how we will create, use and share data across all levels of government, while maintaining the right safeguards to keep this data secure.”