The Australian government has announced it will commit AU$8.5 million to develop a national freight data hub, which it touts would help businesses and governments make better operational and investment decisions.
"A well-designed hub will improve access to and sharing of valuable freight location and performance data," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael McCormack said.
The federal government said the funding will be divided into two parts. Of the total, AU$5.2 million will be allocated to designing the national freight data hub, including arrangements for data collection, data protection and confidentiality, dissemination, and hosting.
The remaining AU$3.3 million will be used to establish a freight data exchange pilot that would give industry early access to real-time freight data.
In conjunction to the announcement, the federal government has released a discussion paper [PDF] which asks a series of questions to seek views on the design of the hub, including the purpose of the hub, what datasets should be collected, how the data should be shared, and priority outputs.
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The paper noted the aim of the data hub would be to enhance access to freight data to support day-to-day operations, improve infrastructure and transport network investment decisions, and enable end-to-end performance evaluation of Australia's freight system.
"We expect primary users of the Hub to include industry, government, regulators, the research community, and the community more broadly. Different user groups are likely to have different uses of the Hub, and a key challenge will be finding a way to serve these disparate uses," the discussion paper said.
"One possibility would be for different users to interact with the data in different ways, for example with different levels of permissions or different degrees of aggregation."
The paper also noted that while there are numerous possible datasets which could be incorporated into the hub, there is also an opportunity to improve accessibility to existing data sets.
When it comes to cybersecurity and data protection, the discussion paper highlighted how "it will be important to ensure that the data sharing and dissemination model produces shared benefits, and that the data outputs meets expectations of timeliness, cost-effectiveness, and utility".
It further added that any industry concerns around the use of data, such as regulatory compliance, would also need to be addressed as part of the hub's design.
"Sharing of freight data is also hampered by inconsistent and disparate approaches, such as data that cannot be compared across supply chains or states," the paper stated.
The newly announced commitment comes off the back of a review into Australia's freight data needs by the iMove Cooperative Research Centre.
The federal government said it would also issue a future discussion paper around hosting and funding of the hub.
Submissions to the first discussion paper on the national freight data hub close on December 6.