​Australia to invest AU$65m on 'reforming' its data system

The Australian government's response to the Productivity Commission Data Availability and Use Inquiry has also revealed that it will be standing up a National Data Commissioner to oversee the sharing of data.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian government will be investing AU$65 million over the forward estimates to "reform" the Australian data system, including implementing the country's new Consumer Data Right, 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.

In its response [PDF] to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into Data Availability and Use, the federal government said the multimillion-dollar investment will be used to introduce three measures to implement the commission's recommendations.

Alongside the new Consumer Data Right, a National Data Commissioner will be stood up to implement the data sharing and release framework, and oversee the data sharing and release activities of Commonwealth agencies.

"The National Data Commissioner will be the trusted overseer of the public data system," the response says.

"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."

It will also develop new legislative and governance arrangements that it said will enable the better use of data across the economy, while "ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place to protect sensitive information".

"These reforms will help empower Australian citizens, governments, industries, and researchers to use and share data, while maintaining the strict privacy, security, and transparency safeguards essential to maintain trust in the system," the government wrote. "These advances to Australia's data system will mean we can harness the power of data to drive innovation and opportunity for the Australian economy."

Hot on the heels of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, the government recognises the lack of trust from the public when it comes to handling their data. As a result, the government said a balance must be struck between utilising data for the benefit of the Australian economy and society, and ensuring community trust in the way it uses data.

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".

Must read: Privacy Foundation: Trusting government with open data a 'recipe for pain

"A cultural change is required from agencies to ensure greater data sharing within government and support for whole-of-government initiatives and reforms," the response continues.

"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."

Also recommended by the Productivity Commission -- and agreed upon by Canberra -- was the establishment of Accredited Release Authorities, which will allow for the enablement of other datasets of public interest to be linked, shared, or released.

"Data sharing agreements between data custodians, Accredited Data Authorities, and data users will be a key part of the governance framework," the government wrote.

"These agreements will articulate risk management processes to effectively assess and manage the risks associated with sharing and release of data for which they are responsible."

The response explains that accountability for the risks of sharing and releasing data will remain with data custodians, however.

The government said it will also establish a framework to identify those datasets whose "availability and use will generate significant community-wide benefits". It expects to find the best way to facilitate sharing and use of such datasets through a consultation process.

It will also introduce a new Data Sharing and Release Act to stand up the Accredited Data Authorities and legislate framework for sharing the datasets.

"The legislative package will set clear rules and expectations for data sharing and release, including making clear when data can be shared, and embedding strong safeguards for sensitive data and effective risk management practices," it continued.

The first sector of the Australian economy to which the Consumer Data Right will be applied is the financial services sector, through an Open Banking regime.


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