Govt developing "single front door" for data access requests

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Govt developing "single front door" for data access requests

‘Dataplace’ revealed ahead of sweeping new sharing regime.

The federal government is developing a digital platform that will serve as a “single front door” for third-parties to access public sector data under its sweeping new data sharing regime.

The Office of the National Data Commissioner (ONDC) revealed plans for the data request platform, called ‘Dataplace’, last week in preparation for the Data Availability and Transparency (DAT) scheme.

Legislation that will pave the way for DAT, which Labor have described as “deeply flawed”, is currently before parliament, awaiting changes recommended by a senate committee in April.

The bill aims to make public sector data sharing easier by creating an alternative pathway that bypasses some 500 data secrecy and confidentiality provisions in 157 piece of existing legislation.

If passed in its current form, agencies will be able to share public sector data with third-parties for three purposes: service delivery, informing policy and programs, and research and development.

In a brief on the digital marketplace last week, the ONDC said Dataplace will be “critical” for the sharing scheme and will support the “functions of the National Data Commissioner, as regulator”.

The platform is expected to be used by third-parties to apply for accreditation, to request access to data, and by agencies to respond to requests and to manage data sharing agreements.

But it will not be used to share data, with agencies instead expected to rely on either their own IT environments or shared environments built by agencies like the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

A spokesperson for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which houses the ONDC, told iTnews that agencies will “need to consider the best method for sharing data in each circumstance”.

“Some Australian government agencies have their own IT environment that they use to provide secure access to data for users,” the spokesperson said.

“Other agencies arrange for their data to be shared in secure environments managed by other government agencies, such as the ABS and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)”.

The ONDC also expects Dataplace will support the management of data requests under other sharing mechanisms, meaning the platform will become a “single front door for access”.

“This approach will provide a more streamlined approach for data users seeking to access to Australian government data,” the spokesperson said.

The ONDC is already well advanced in the platform’s design and development, having already tested prototype functionality with 100 users from agencies like the ABS and AIHW, as well as universities.

It is now working towards a beta release of the platform sometime before the end of 2021, before a foundational release early next year. It then plans to add to Dataplace over the next three years.

Following funding to the tune of $16.6 million over four years in this year’s budget, the ONDC is also progressing a pilot program that will develop data inventories for 20 percent of federal agencies.

The inventories will “provide the foundation for a public, searchable catalogue of government-held data assets”, ABS national data commissioner support director Adam Harris said in a blog post.

It is not expected that the catalogue will hold the data assets themselves, but act as a directory to assist those looking to request data from government.

“There is tremendous potential to be realised through increasing the transparency of government data holdings and promoting safe sharing and use of these data,” he said.

“Creating a searchable catalogue of government-held data is a great step towards this goal.”

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