Global open data leaders give NSW lessons in data sharing



NSW government can learn from other governments internationally about how to develop and promote a culture of open data and data sharing, says a report commissioned by the Information and Privacy Commission of NSW and the NSW Open Data Advocate.

The UNSW Law report, Conditions Enabling Open Data and Promoting a Data Sharing Culture 2017, released yesterday (Monday) looks at the progress of five other countries – the UK, France, Canada, the US and New Zealand – towards recognising the importance of open data and doing something about it. All five are considered to be leading the way globally.

Open data is data that can be freely used, shared and built-on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose and offered free or at minimal cost.

The data can come from a wide range of sources, including government departments and agencies; universities; corporations; charities; NGOs; groups and individuals and it can encompass statistics, maps, scientific research, reports, and weather amongst other things.  

To qualify as open, data should be available in bulk and able to be processed by a computer.

The UNSW Law report identified six main drivers for achieving open data and went on to show how the NSW government could use international best practice and put more emphasis on open data.

These drivers included:

  • Leadership and public support by government, ministers and agency heads to create processes and a culture that encourage the release and sharing of data
  • Legislation that sets out the rights and responsibilities governing access, sharing and protection of data for those who want the data and those who keep it. For example, the UK, US and France have mandated that data be open by default and be machine-readable and in in a standardised format
  • Policies to guide agency and staff decisions and priorities around open data and privacy, data security and collaboration
  • Regulations to provide certainty and to set expectations and obligations, as well as providing oversight and punishing non-compliance. These should balance rights to data with concerns over privacy and anticipating risk
  • Promoting culture and collaboration that supports open data within government and with the public, for example co-operation between agencies and between international, national and sub-national levels of government
  • Developing strategies to make data open, including funding open data, sharing success stories and engaging communities and individuals, for example the UKAuthority.

NSW Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Tydd said the independent research report was the first of its kind in Australia.

“The research demonstrates how open data is being achieved internationally through an examination of leading jurisdictions,” Ms Tydd said. “The research acknowledges NSW’s progress and, importantly, offers new and significant insights to inform our approach to opening up valuable NSW data resources.”  

She said opening data was “an impactful, contemporary approach to opening government” that promoted “effective and accountable government and enables meaningful public participation”.

A recent IPC community attitudes survey found strong support for Open Data in NSW with 83 per cent of people agreeing that de-identified information should inform government service planning and delivery.

The report provides suggestions on how NSW can move further towards open government and open data.

These include recommendations to:

  • Publish a complete catalogue of all datasets, including restricted datasets
  • Moving from a legislative framework authorising data release to one that proactively encourages it
  • Mandating departments to open specific datasets and set quotas for datasets to force collaboration
  • Identify which datasets are important economic drivers for growth in regional areas and prioritise these
  • Mandate departments to create machine-readable standardised formats for datasets to allow analytics and linked data applications
  • Explicitly fund departments opening up high-value datasets in machine-readable format
  • Adopt an anticipatory regulatory approach that promotes open data but ensures ongoing evaluation and assessment of security and privacy risks
  • Develop in-depth guidelines on anonymisation and de-identification
  • Identify workforce skills/knowledge gaps and opportunities to work with local government and other government agencies
  • Adopt an incubator model where an open data company is embedded with an agency to co-develop ideas and applications on models, or engage with entities such as Code for Australia to bring in ideas and expertise

The research underpinning the report was guided by a steering committee comprising NSW agencies and experts, including the Data Analytics Centre, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Data61, the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation and the Department of Justice. 

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