Posted: 19 Sep. 2019 05 min. read

Open Data

The Promised Land

All Australian Governments are moving towards better utilising their data assets to create greater public value.

An example of this is the Western Australian Government’s Target 120 Initiative, a multi-agency initiative aimed at helping youth offenders avoid a life connected to the justice system.  Target 120 will support up to 300 young offenders and their families through the provision of early interventions targeted at reaching young people before detention.  Central to this multi-agency initiative will be data analytics and predictive modelling, leading to earlier identification of at risk individuals, as well as the development of targeted interventions that work.

Data will be critical to the successful delivery of Target 120.  Analytics is required to provide current insights into youth re-offending as well as predictive modelling.  For example, research indicates that there are a number of key indicators that correlate with an increased likelihood of re-offending such as substance abuse, domestic violence, poor school attendance and mental health issues.

As the youth of today will be the future of our society, it is important that we provide the best foundation possible to help them become the best version of themselves, regardless of circumstance.  This means helping young people to turnaround their lives.  This is why a data analytics approach is being deployed, to give governments clarity and insight on issues to make more informed funding choices, including knowing where investments should be made in order to have the biggest impact.

Target 120 is just one example of the public value of government data and analytics, there are many more. 

Despite the public value potential, when it comes to public agencies sharing data, a number of barriers exist.  These barriers, however, are not exclusive to the public sector, but are also present in other sectors.  They include:

Customer

Social licence and social trust

There has been an erosion of social licence and social trust as a result of high profile data breaches and leakages, and inappropriate use of personal information. 

Consent

It will be important to create an environment of dynamic consent to allow data to be reused for different purposes, as opposed to one consent per collection point.

Culture of risk aversion and process complexity
An inherent culture of risk aversion leading to overly cautious legislative interpretation and process complexity.

Platform

Data commoditisation

There is no consensus on data charging, where it is appropriate and how to value the data asset.  Consideration of the impact on users and the administrative cost to charging will be required.

Using insights

Little practice on what questions to ask to gain useful insights, and then drive action based on that insight.

Appropriate security and protections

There are significant challenges to protect data assets from malicious actors as many agencies have legacy systems and poor security controls, as identified in annual Auditor General reports.

Data

Data ownership

Who owns the data, the original data source, who that data can be shared with and for what purpose can be unclear.

Data quality

The lack of data quality, lack of datasets available, and the resultant risk of public criticism is a major barrier.

Capacity and capability

There is a skill shortage in data capabilities thereby limiting the sector’s ability to deliver a data driven agenda.

Is it any wonder that public agencies maintain a culture of risk aversion and choose to keep data rather than release it? 

Despite these barriers, some public sector agencies have started on their data journeys by:

·  Identifying and understanding what data assets they have
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources recently undertook a department-wide data value and data quality assessment to progress data sharing within and outside of government.

·  Exploring and bringing creativity into how they are using data to solve complex problems through hackathons
Landgate in Western Australia has gone beyond the hackathon by incubating promising innovations within their business post Hackathon, thereby helping to solve problems as well as support the viability of start-up companies.  An example of this is smartvision.ai, a computer vision start-up focused on analysing road vision data to detect roadside hazards in real time.

·  Establishing communities of interest, beginning with other public agencies but also broadening this to private sector bodies
The Australian Government created a virtual community of practice as part of their open data portal, effectively bringing together people in Government as well as other users, such as innovators, businesses and researchers, accessing datasets.

·  Creating data platforms that enable greater openness and collaboration 
Nearly every Australian State and Territory Government has created a whole of government data platform to provide easy access to data users.  The ACT Government data portal is more than a one stop data shop for users to access government datasets, it also showcases data analytics and usage on high public interest topics such as cycle crashes, mobile speed cameras and public transport performance. In addition to this, some agencies with large datasets that of high value and interest to the public have also established their own data portals, for example Transport for NSW.

To achieve the promise land of open data, however, it will take a collaborative effort to inculcate a data driven culture across the entire public sector.  This will only occur by building the trust and cohesion necessary for all public agencies to feel confidence in releasing data and enabling society to benefit from its analysis and action.

For more information on driving data sharing and collaboration across the public sector, please contact Marion Burchell.

About Marion: Prior to joining Deloitte, Marion was the Acting Government Chief Information Officer for the Western Australian Government.  She is passionate about data and the possibilities it presents, and as such, led the government’s data reform, including the establishment of the open data policy and its implementation.

Meet our author

Marion Burchell

Marion Burchell

Director, Technology, Strategy and Innovation

Marion Burchell is a Director in the Monitor Deloitte virtual office based in Perth. Prior to joining Deloitte, Marion was the Acting Government Chief Information Officer for the Western Australian Government. Marion’s interests lie in the confluence of strategy, innovation and technology, having designed and implemented the State Government’s Innovation Funds and Strategy, as well as being pivotal to the creation of the former Office of the GCIO. She is passionate about data and the possibilities it presents, and as such, led the government’s data reform, including the establishment of the open data policy and its implementation. Marion is a member of the Open Data IVP, the national GovLab practice and joint lead for the Civil Government sector practice.