Australia wants to be world leader in big data analytics

The Australian Government's new Big Data Strategy seeks to position the country as a world leader in public sector big data analytics use and government services reform

The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has released its Public Service Big Data Strategy. Underpinned by six ‘big data principles’, the strategy aims to position Australia as a world leader in the public sector use of big data analytics to deliver service delivery reform, better public policy and protect citizens‘ privacy.

The six principles -- data is a national asset; privacy by design; data integrity and the transparency of processes; skills, resources and capabilities will be shared; collaboration with industry and academia; and enhancing open data – are expected to help government realise substantial productivity and innovation gains as well as help tackle intractable policy and business challenges.

"It is expected that some big data projects will provide unanticipated insights into business problems," the strategy reads. "Industry experience suggests that these unanticipated correlations and discoveries may provide important insights that could lead to innovative solutions that might not otherwise have been reached. These insights may also provide opportunities to act and respond more rapidly to information and trends as they occur."

A major area where 'innovative solutions' are expected to occur is in service delivery. Through utilising big data analysis, agencies may be able to increase productivity and effectiveness by assisting agencies in better tailoring and targeting services, policies and programs.

"The improved targeting of services… will help agencies to better manage and prevent over-servicing whilst ensuring that people are not missing out on any services to which they may be entitled and of which they might be unaware," the strategy reads.  

Increasingly, big data will allow services will also become tailored services reflecting specific individual and community needs and interests.

"This process of personalising services to the consumer’s needs will allow for simpler and easier access to government services and may help government in reducing the costs of delivering these services by avoiding over-servicing or better matching of services to people and communities," the paper reads.

Better policy and policy outcomes will also be delivered through improved big data management, the strategy claims, by allowing government to access and perform analysis on more information from more sources.

"Decision makers may be able to model different policy options and more accurately predict the outcomes of policies before they are implemented and use this information to inform and improve the policy development process," the strategy reads.

"Agencies could then use this granular information to make better informed and more responsive decisions, to achieve desired outcomes in a shorter amount of time, and at lower cost to the community."

Despite the enthusiasm for big data, the strategy notes that privacy issues must be addressed if the full benefits of big data-led reform are to be realised.

In particular, agencies require better practices around linking together cross-agency data sets, better practices around the use of third-party data sets, and the de-identification of data.

Better practices around managing the mosaic effect (data elements that in isolation appear anonymous can lead to a privacy breach when combined), releasing open data, and data retention and cross-border data flows are also required.

The strategy also sets a timeline for concrete actions to put the six principles into action. These actions begin with develop big data better practice guidance by March 2014, followed by a report on the barriers to big data analytics by July 2014.

These will be followed by a push to ensure that the ICT industry and education sectors can supply the skills necessary for big data analysis (July 2014), develop a guide to responsible data analytics (July 2014) and two ongoing projects: developing an information asset register; and monitor technical advances in big data analytics.