South Australia embraces Open Data

By Paul Hemsley

The South Australian government has joined the ranks of the federal government and other state governments after Premier Jay Weatherill mandated a new requirement for all government agencies to house their public data in a central portal to ensure that it is accessible to the community at large.

Following in step with other Australian governments that have joined the Open Data movement, South Australia will become the latest government to create an “open data” access point to enable the public to search for, slice and ice  relevant information or statistics.

When the federal government launched its own Open Data portal in March 2011, it was followed by the Victorian government in August 2012, the Queensland government in December 2012 and a revamp of the NSW government’s Open Data website in 2013 that had been providing some data sets online since 2009.

The South Australian government’s move to create its Open Data platform leaves Western Australia and Tasmania as the only states still to join the what is essentially a non-partisan movement.

The South Australian government’s move is tied in with the state’s Office of the Chief Information Officer leading an Open Data Action Plan to guide agencies in classifying, licencing and releasing their data.

The government claims that the Open Data Action Plan will ensure that these agencies “maintain the highest standards or privacy, security and integrity”.

The launch of an Open Data website has also followed a long term campaign by the state government to make Open Data an important resource for local businesses and community groups to use and by allowing them access to government data through an Open Data competition called “Unleashed”.

More than 100 digital entrepreneurs used government data through the Unleashed competition to create mobile applications and “visualisation tools” and websites, which resulted with local company All my I.T. winning the Premier’s Award for its web-based application concept called Social Active.

The application enables the people to meet up with each other for sports and recreation and allows users and organisations to host an activity and use social media to invite other to join them. The company also won the national prize for “Best Benefit to the SA Community”.

The resulting success of the Unleashed competition has led the government to making it an annual event.

Mr Weatherill said opening up government data to industry, community groups, digital entrepreneurs and start-up companies will create an “enormous benefit” to the state through the development of smartphone and web-based applications.

It will enable informed investment decision making, Mr Weatherill said.

“As the custodian of a significant amount of data, the state government can help to fuel a boom in the local digital marketplace but it’s equally important that industry and community groups release their data too,” Mr Weatherill said.

Mr Weatherill wasn’t alone in his remarks about the benefits of open data for private enterprise as Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) chair and Telstra state director Michael Luchich said the state government’s move presented an “outstanding opportunity” for South Australian ICT firms to mine the data, build apps and generate new revenue streams.

“It also presents an opportunity for increased collaboration between government agencies, lower cost government service delivery and improved public sector productivity,” Mr Luchich said.

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