NSW requires government data to be ‘open by default’

By Paul Hemsley

The New South Wales government has revealed its first Open Data Policy and will require all agencies set their online data policy as “open by default”.

As part of the government’s ICT Implementation Strategy Plan, the Policy announced at an Open Data Forum in Sydney this week will require state agencies to “start from a position of data openness”.

The move to open data repositories comes as NSW follows similar US and European initiatives that have spawned thousands of new and innovative low cost applications for citizens that range from being alerted to new development applications to plotting the progress of approaching public transport.

Apart from public utility and the obvious factor of goodwill, the big benefit to government from the explosion of DIY mobile and desktop apps is that they have radically cut the price of analysing and putting government information to work, as external developers once locked out compete to build compelling products.

Minister for Finance and Services Andrew Constance is actively promoting Open Data as a core element of the government’s ICT Strategy Implementation Plan, which also includes a major push for widely implementing cloud computing across state departments and agencies.

Although the NSW government had previously provided some data sets online through its Open Data website from 2009, the new Open Data policy is a significant revamp of how the government requires agencies to deliver their digital information assets to the public.

The new whole-of-government approach brings NSW into line with other state governments that have dedicated open data portals, including Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.

NSW says it will now work with those other states to enable easy access to their datasets from data.nsw.gov.au.

Mr Constance said the government had engaged with the community, industry and the research sector to deliver a policy that drives transparency, accountability and better service delivery to the people of NSW.

“We want to transform government through IT over the next ten years by better utilising mobile apps and social media, improving the way we interact with customers,” Mr Constance said.

He said the government is supporting these initiatives by implementing an open access licencing framework to make it easier for agencies and those who use the data to understand and apply open licences.

“AusGOAL, the Australian Governments’ Open Access Licensing Framework, provides a system by which Government can make appropriate licencing decisions to allow the reuse of data and information in new and innovative ways by the community,” Mr Constance said.

He said applying this framework will also make it easier to share information with other jurisdictions.

There are however some limits to the great data liberation campaign. One conspicuous waiver is where there is a “specific, overriding reason” for government data not to be released in accordance with the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPAA).

Although security and public safety concerns are sure to figure into these, a litmus test will be whether agencies will be prepared to forgo revenue from datasets that the government sells to value added resellers.

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