Australian government agencies must take a more contemporary approach to sharing and releasing data, according to a new draft report from the Productivity Commission.
Proposing significant reforms, the report recommends a new Data Sharing and Release Act, a National Data Custodian and a suite of sectoral Accredited Release Authorities to improve transparency and confidence in data processes.
Underutilisation of big data
It is estimated that the amount of digital data generated every two days now exceeds that generated for the entire year of 2002 (five terabytes). Yet we are currently only analysing 5% of potentially useful data to generate information, build knowledge and inform decision making.
“Falling costs of digital data storage, and the spread of low-cost and powerful analytics tools and techniques to extract patterns, correlations and interactions from within data, are also making data analytics more usable and valuable. Yet much of the data being generated remains underutilised.”
The report points to Australia’s health sector as one example where data opportunities are being missed. By better linking and assessing information, policy makers could identify emerging health issues within communities and factors that contribute to particular conditions, assess the safety of various treatment options and evaluate the effectiveness of existing policies.
Protection and risk
Among the recommendations is that consumers be given greater control over and access to their data. While higher risk data would remain protected, de-identified or non-confidential data can and should be made available to for use by governments, consumers, business and the research community.
The report highlights that many of our frameworks for data collection and access were developed prior to the rapid digitisation of recent years, and Australia is falling behind international counterparts in modernising our approach.
“There is a very real culture of risk aversion and risk avoidance in the public sector when it comes to data release. Changing this will require strong and consistent leadership, backed up by policies that clearly spell out objectives and expectations.”
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