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Commonwealth launches AU$131m data analytics policy-shaping initiative

The Data Integration Partnership for Australia will create a central capability that will use data to form social, industry, environmental, and government efficiency policies.

The Australian government has announced the launch of the Data Integration Partnership for Australia (DIPA), which will see the establishment of data analytics teams charged with delivering "evidence-based" Commonwealth programs and policy.

The DIPA will receive AU$130.8 million over three years to execute the initiative.

According to Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor, the central capability within the DIPA will coordinate the team focused on social, industry, environmental, and government efficiency policies.

One of the policy areas to be analysed by the data-focused teams will be the costs and benefits of different forms of industry assistance.

Other areas to be analysed include identifying and preventing risk of disability in the workplace, supporting ongoing workforce participation for those with a disability, and better understanding the effects of medications to avoid adverse reactions, the assistant minister said in a statement.

The DIPA will create data assets that include information about populations, businesses, the environment, and government, which Taylor expects to help inform the development and evaluation of policies and programs.

Taylor said the data will be de-identified and analysed in controlled environments that are also governed by strict processes and legislation.

The AU$130.8 million cash injection has been made available through the Public Sector Modernisation Fund announced in the 2017-18 Budget.

The Modernisation Fund is expected to support the transition of agencies to more "modern and sustainable operating models", and to upgrade cultural infrastructure such as Old Parliament House, the Australian National Maritime Museum, and the Torres Strait Regional Authority land and sea management facility on Thursday Island, in addition to the previously announced AU$16.4 million to digitise the National Library of Australia and AU$4 million to digitise the Australian War Memorial.

The government will additionally use this Modernisation Fund to consolidate 60 agencies' core IT, financial, and human resources systems into one of six corporate service hubs, while further consolidation will see 74 percent of all business and community grants delivered via the Community and Business Grants Hubs on behalf of nine agencies.

Funding will also be used to train public sector staff members in digital skills, while seven Commonwealth agencies are slated to participate in a mobility trial.

The federal government also used the Budget 2017-18 to reaffirm its commitment to open data, with one of its projects to see it "transform the analysis of public data to improve policy and program implementation and expenditure" by providing access to open government data via a single entry point.

Last year, the government said open government data could generate up to AU$25 billion per year, with the research "a key focus" of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, announced in December 2015.

At the time, Turnbull committed to making all non-sensitive government data open by default.

Under the Australian Government Public Data Policy Statement [PDF], government entities are by default permitted to publish "appropriately anonymised" data. The criminalisation of those who re-identify such de-identified data was earlier this year legislated when laws passed through the Australian Senate.