Budget 2018: Funding Australia's data-sharing framework

Australia will be appointing a National Data Commissioner as the government announces funding for its Consumer Data Right and a new framework for data sharing, as well as the Open Banking regime.

After flagging last week that it would invest AU$65 million on reforming the Australian data system, the Australian government has announced in its 2018-19 Budget that it will be establishing a Consumer Data Right, a new data sharing framework, and the Open Banking Regime, as well as appointing a National Data Commissioner.

"In this Budget we are also moving forward with our Open Banking Regime and Consumer Data Right, giving small businesses and households more control, more choice, and better deals," Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison said in his Budget speech on Tuesday night.

"The government is helping small businesses gain access to capital to turn their great ideas into viable businesses. Crowd-sourced equity funding for public companies is now in place, expanding funding options for startups and early stage businesses, while the introduction of Open Banking has the potential to unlock more innovative ways for small businesses to access credit and create more competitive banking products for customers," the Budget documents added.

According to the federal government, establishing a Consumer Data Right will allow citizens to have greater control over their personal data, as well as enabling consumers to allow businesses to share their data "safely with trusted recipients, who in turn will be able to offer better deals through innovative products and comparison services".

The Consumer Data Right has been given AU$44.6 million in funding over four years with the Right commencing across the telecommunications, banking, and energy sectors before being applied to the entire economy "eventually".

"Data-driven competition and innovation will grow the economy, creating high-value jobs," the government said.

"Improvements are also being made to how the government handles and uses the data it collects to deliver better services and outcomes for Australians, whilst protecting information security.

"A National Data Commissioner will implement and oversee a simpler, safer, and more efficient government data use framework. The National Data Commissioner will be the trusted overseer of the Government data system, responsible for proactively monitoring the integrity of the system and engaging with the community."

Of this funding envelope, AU$20.2 million will be spent on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) determining the costs and benefits of designating sectors to be subject to the Right, and developing and implementing the rules to govern the Right and the content of data standards; AU$12.9 million to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) to assess privacy impacts and ensure consistency of rules with the Privacy Act; and AU$11.5 million for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) for its role as data standards setter.

The funding will be split between the ACCC, which will get AU$4.6 million in 2018-19, AU$5.1 million in 2019-20, AU$4.9 million in 2020-21, AU$5 million in 2021-22; and put up AU$600,000 in related capital; the CSIRO, which will get AU$3.7 million in 2018-19, AU$2.9 million in 2019-20, AU$2.5 million in 2020-21, and AU$2.5 million in 2021-22; and OAIC, which will get AU$2.8 million in 2018-19, AU$3.2 million in 2019-20, AU$3 million in 2020-21, AU$3.1 million in 2021-22, and will put up AU$900,000 in related capital.

The government had announced its independent Open Banking Review in the 2017-18 Budget, with Westpac, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the National Australia Bank, and the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group all having expressed concerns with the vulnerabilities of a mandate to open customer data.

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Under Delivering Australia's Digital Future: Data sharing and release arrangements, AU$20.5 million over four years will then be provided to establish a new framework for data sharing in response to the recommendations for an open-data practice in response to the Productivity Commission's Inquiry.

"A new data sharing and release framework will be introduced to strengthen the government's use, sharing, and management of data," a joint statement from Human Services Minister and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation Michael Keenan and Social Services Minister Dan Tehan said.

"A National Data Commissioner will be appointed to oversee and monitor the framework. New legislation will streamline how government agencies use and reuse public data, subject to appropriate data safeguards. This measure is in addition to the measure and investment the government is making in the Consumer Data Right."

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

The framework will be underpinned by legislation and administered by a newly created National Data Commissioner (NDC), with technical guidance and support to be provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to federal agencies on best practices for de-identifying data prior to release.

"The NDC will be responsible for developing guidance on data sharing arrangements; monitoring and addressing risks and ethical considerations on data use; and managing the process for high value datasets," the Budget papers said.

"The cost of this measure will be met from within the existing resources of portfolio departments."

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