Open data and data.gov.au

Author: 
Ann Steward - AGIMO
Category: 
The Department of Finance Archive

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A crucial part of the Government 2.0 Taskforce report, the Australian Government’s response to the Taskforce and the Government’s subsequent Declaration of Open Government was a focus on releasing more government data, subject to privacy, security and other relevant concerns. The aim of this process is to enable greater public access to taxpayer-funded data in useful formats and under open licences so that it can be reused for other, potentially valuable purposes.

In responding to the Taskforce, the Government committed to build a data.gov.au site to serve as a central access point for government data. Data.gov.au will be the Australian equivalent of the United States’ data.gov, the United Kingdom’s data.gov.uk and similar sites from other jurisdictions. It will build on the work AGIMO has already done in establishing the data.australia.gov.au beta website, data from which was reused by the community to great effect during the Government 2.0 Taskforce’s Mashup Australia contest.

As discussed by Peter Alexander in a previous blog post, work is already underway on building data.gov.au, with a scheduled release date of December 2010. A particular focus of ours both before and after the launch will be to publish machine-readable data that is described through appropriate metadata and released under open licences so that it can be reused by the community. Data.gov.au will include datasets from Australian Government agencies and links to other data repositories, such as those managed by state and territory governments such as data.vic.gov.au, by Australian Government agencies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics and bodies such as ANZLIC.

This move towards open data is also relevant to the Government’s freedom of information (FOI) reforms. These reforms aim to encourage a pro-disclosure culture in the public sector, including the establishment of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) as the agency responsible for FOI, privacy and information policy issues. I encourage you to read the OAIC’s first issues paper, Towards an Australian Government Information Policy (PDF, 819k), which discusses the new FOI arrangements and seeks public input.

As discussed in the issues paper, the new FOI process includes an Information Publication Scheme for Australian Government agencies that will come into effect on 1 May 2011. The Information Publication Scheme will establish a range of information that agencies will be obliged to publish online wherever possible. When the information concerned involves a dataset or datasets, data.gov.au will play an important role by giving agencies the means to easily publish the data and make it discoverable through a central access point.

Data.gov.au will also include a feature allowing the public to suggest datasets that they would like to see released by Australian Government agencies. I note that while we will, wherever possible, pass on these suggestions to the relevant agency, the suggestion itself will not constitute an FOI request. Members of the public seeking access to a government dataset through an FOI request will need to make a formal application through the relevant agency.

The launch and ongoing management of data.gov.au has  important implications for the Government’s FOI reforms and its commitment to increased transparency. I expect that the quality of the data released through the site will increase over time due to increased agency reporting obligations and our efforts to encourage the publication of reusable, appropriately open licensed data. I welcome any comments you may have about the site and our work in this area.

Comments (7)

Ann - pre-congratulations in the launch of data.gov.au.

My query is related to the "focus" of data being published "through appropriate metadata".

Which metadata formats (standards) have you recommended to the Agencies?

Renato

A thorough first issues paper. Well done.

The definition, "information held by the Government of the Commonwealth" is quite broad and will provide some challenges about what is published. Data sets are potentially easier to provide than other types of content.

The register of "an agency's key information assets" will undoubtedly help in determining what and where information is published.

Good job.

Very helpful guide. Thank you.

Is there a specific date for the launch of data.gov.au other than "December 2010"?

It would be useful if there were two dates to chose from.

Renato – as Peter Alexander said in his previous post, we are working closely with agencies about appropriate metadata standards, including through consultation via the Government 2.0 Steering Group and some of the key agencies who are active in this space. As with data.australia.gov.au, dataset pages on data.gov.au will include a core set of metadata fields which we feel are common across other commonly used/mandated metadata standards, such as the Australian Government Locator Service (AGLS).

Neil – you may like to make a formal submission to the OAIC about their issues paper – I am sure they would welcome feedback on these matters.

John – not at this time.

Ann

One quick way the government could make head way with this process is to ensure every government department could releases it annual reports in a machine readable format in particular there financial reports, rather than in PDF format.

Secondly many departments such as DOHA have annual Minimum Data Set (MDS) returns from different funding projects scattered across there web sites or held in proxy by AIHW. It would be good to aggregate these by the department so as they could be readily found and used.

Andrew

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Last updated: 28 July 2016