The federal government will release thousands of previously unavailable Commonwealth data sets to application developers within months, including some of its most commercially valuable.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the move to the finalists and winners of the GovHack 2014 awards ceremony in Brisbane last night.
Turnbull said the information belonged to the public and the Abbott government had a 'strong political commitment' to making it available for use.
“At the moment we have, in collaboration with private and public partners, released a number of high value data sets. Twenty five percent of the federal government’s open data has been made open since the last election, just to give you an idea of how strong our political commitment to it is,” Turnbull said.
“Now we expect that over the next months, 6000 new data sets would be added to 3700 commonwealth data sets already available. And these initiatives will not only provide more data, they will provide more targeted high value data sets especially in the areas of environmental, health, statistical geo-spatial data."
The federal government earmarked 22 of its most valuable data sets among those to be released in the coming months, Turnbull said, which would be sourced from portfolios including finance, energy and infrastructure, and pertain to government accountability and geo-coded addressing.
Turnbull also said the government was considering funding more research programs around using the data.
The Department of Communications, and several other federal departments and agencies, have backed the GovHack event to showcase what can be achieved by building applications that can mix and cross reference government data in creative and useful ways.
This year’s competitors developed applications around a wide variety of disciplines ranging from sociology, politics and economics to energy and health.
Sydney-based team R3K1 used a range of government data to build an app that aims to make people “experience” inequality between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The app, called “show the gap”, invites users to compare their own expected mortality to an equivalent indigenous person.
Another Sydney-based team called SilentHackers built an application that attempts to use government health data to find correlations between forms of cancer and present it in a digestible visual format. The app - called CancerMash - picked up the highly commended award in this year’s data journalism category.
Turnbull said making government data available had "extraordinary" importance given its ability to relate to every aspect of a person's life.
“Every aspect of the social, economic, political information that we have once we relate it to a particular geo-location suddenly makes it relevant, and makes it usable and valuable,” he said.