Australian government should use its big data: Commission of Audit

Australian government should use its big data: Commission of Audit

Summary: The report from the Australian National Commission of Audit has recommended that the Australia Public Service make better use of the data the government collects, and look to analyse its data holdings.


Australian government agencies should share their data both inside and outside of government, improve the way that data is used, and keep pace with private sector use of big data, the report from the Australian National Commission of Audit has recommended.

The report says a lack of data in areas such as disability care, aged care, job seekers, and disadvantage is "hindering insights" into the performance of some of the fastest growing government programmes. Examples given in the report include combining health and incarceration data to "identify better pathways out of disadvantage", and a lack of data on Job Services Australia prevents analysis of any interactions between welfare and work. Legislative barriers to linking data should be removed, the report said, with a lack of research on the Medicare Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data being blocked.

"There is untapped potential to use anonymised data and new data analytic techniques to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government," the report said. "The Commission recommends that the government, recognising the need to safeguard privacy concerns, rapidly improve the use of data in policy development, service delivery and fraud reduction."

The commission said the government should prioritise major big data project across "key service delivery bodies", such as the Department of Human Services, Department of Immigration, and Australian Taxation Office, and complex policy areas such as Indigenous health.

Big data was not the only area where the government needed to up its game according to the commission, with cloud computing and e-Government as areas where the federal government was not moving fast enough. It said the federal government needs a bold strategy and digital champion within Cabinet to make e-Government a success, recommending a "digital by default" strategy be adopted.

"There is limited value in collecting electronic information from citizens to feed into manual processes in departments," the report said.

Topics: Big Data, Government AU, Australia


Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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  • Has our government got the tech 'ticker'?

    The Commission of Audit makes some apparently worthy recommendations, calling on the government to be bold and aggressive in its online strategies. But does the Commission really think government can step up, given Australia's historical information technology timidity?
    We have a properly technology neutral regulatory system but for 15 or 20 years this philosophy has morphed into technology indifference in policy circles. The Commission cites the UK's digital-by-default strategy but the Brits also invested in authentication and identity management infrastructure, including a panel of government accredited commercial identity providers. In contrast, the Australian government at exactly the same time allowed a puny "National Trusted Identity Framework" think tank to meander for two years under three different departments, going backwards all the while. We have been utterly woeful nationally at driving digital identity reform.
    If the Commission of Audit favors the British e-government model then we have to see a much improved appetite in Canberra for understanding technology and backing winners. Yes, backing winners. And sometimes failing at that, but failing fast. This has not historically been the Australian way in government, but that has to change if an "aggressive" approach to Big Data and digital-by-default is really to prevail.
    • Government is never rewarded for making mistakes

      Agencies get punnished eventually for successful innovation & efficiency gains by loss of budget (eventually). They get punnished again should things go wrong, even if the dilligence was done. They are also expected to acheive these things within thier existing budgets, which are shrinking thanks to the ever increasing efficency dividend. This is why progress has been slow.

      Anyway, private enterprise can't make sense of its own big data yet!
  • The commission of audit

    Has nothing to do with common sense or good practices, it's about imposing extreme ideology on the country