Australian government should use its big data: Commission of Audit

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.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

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.

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