​Australia gets interim National Data Commissioner

Long-serving public servant Deborah Anton has been appointed to lead the government's data reform.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The federal government has appointed Deborah Anton as Australia's interim National Data Commissioner.

As commissioner, Anton will be charged with implementing the country's new data sharing and release framework, and will oversee the data sharing and release activities of Commonwealth agencies.

She will also work closely with the privacy commissioner to help strengthen safeguards around the integrity, management, and use of government-held data.

A statement from Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said Anton has wide-ranging experience in legislation, regulation, policy, and program delivery, which was developed during a career spanning more than 20 years in the Australian Public Service.

The federal government is hoping to reform the Australian data system, in May announcing that it would be investing AU$65 million on initiatives such as the country's new Consumer Data Right (CDR), which will allow individuals to "own" their data by granting them open access to their banking, energy, phone, and internet transactions, as well as the right to control who can have it and who can use it.

"The National Data Commissioner will be the trusted overseer of the public data system," the government said in May. "Realising benefits from data for all Australians needs a powerful champion with a mandate to unlock the productivity benefits of valuable datasets, identify opportunities for improved data use, and build national frameworks and guidelines."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will provide technical guidance and support to the National Data Commissioner, and a new National Data Advisory Council will advise the commissioner on "ethical data use, technical best practice, and industry and international developments".

"A cultural change is required from agencies to ensure greater data sharing within government and support for whole-of-government initiatives and reforms," the government said earlier this year in its response [PDF] to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into data availability and use.

"The new data sharing and release framework will support a drive for cultural change within government towards greater data sharing while mitigating the risks associated with sharing of personal data.

"Better legislative and governance arrangements will ensure government gets the maximum benefits from the data it already holds and collects while maintaining public trust in how data is being used. This will enable government to meet community expectations to be efficient and to use the data it already has more productively."

Anton will be charged with the delivery of a new Data Sharing and Release Act that Keenan said will simplify more than 500 privacy and secrecy provisions that currently exist across government departments.

She will also develop a new framework to improve access to non-sensitive data in a bid to help drive growth and innovation within the Australian economy.

Anton assisted in establishing the Government's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT).


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