Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Data and Digital Council agrees to share data nationwide to support COVID-19 recovery

The federal government also launched a toolkit for businesses to navigate COVID-19 and the Australian Digital Health Agency has launched a coronavirus innovation challenge.

The Australian Data and Digital Council on Friday met via teleconference to discuss Australia-wide data-sharing initiatives, with a focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council, chaired by Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert, discussed the role of data in supporting decision-makers across jurisdictions to "make timely, evidence-based decisions to address a range of needs, including social, economic, and health".

The ministers noted work was underway to identify analytical questions and associated data sharing requirements to support COVID-19 response and recovery, and that they agreed to "work collegiately" to investigate effective solutions that support decision-making, including through a dedicated official-level group.

"COVID-19 continues to be the largest disruptive event the world has seen in many years and it is having a significant health and economic impact," the group said in a communiqué. "Government services are continuing to evolve rapidly to meet the need for people and businesses to interact online, deliver real-time information and services, when and where needed."

In addition to Robert, the council comprises NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello; Victoria's Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier Danny Pearson; South Australian Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni; Tasmania's Minister for State Growth and Minister for Science and Technology Michael Ferguson; ACT Minister for Advanced Technology and Space Industries Mick Gentleman; the NT's Minister for Corporate and Information Services and Minister for Tourism, Sport and Culture Lauren Moss; and WA Minister for forest and innovation Dave Kelly. 

On Friday, Kris Faafoi, New Zealand's Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister, also joined the discussions.

The council in September agreed to establish a National Disability Data Asset, which compiles data on those in the country living with disability.

The Australian Data and Digital Council was stood up in early August, replacing the Australian Digital Council (ADC), which was focused on a nation-wide approach to digital transformation, specifically where data was concerned.

COVID-19 business toolkit and health-related innovation challenge 

The federal government, through Safe Work Australia (SWA), has also launched a new online toolkit aimed at providing guidance for businesses and workers on how to stay safe from COVID-19.

The SWA website, Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter said, has been transformed into a centralised information hub, which allows users to search for work health and safety guidance relevant to 23 specific industries.

"That includes guidance about physical distancing, personal protective equipment, worksite cleaning, how to conduct risk assessments and design emergency plans, as well as providing case studies to help explain how to manage the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace," Porter said.

Developing the toolkit was a key recommendation of the National Cabinet, which later this week will be determining what will be eased as a result of Australia's positive response to containing coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), the system administrator of Australia's My Health Record, has launched an innovation challenge that it said would support the national COVID-19 effort and future proof Australia's healthcare system.

It is seeking submissions from Australian digital health, engineering, and biomedical industries to champion digital health innovation and help Australia get the most from its national digital health infrastructure.

"By running an Innovation Challenge, we will uncover the most innovative ideas at a time we need them most. We want these ideas to consider the extensive digital health infrastructure already in place -- including healthcare identifiers, standards for data interchange and the My Health Record -- so the ideas can be scaled across the country," ADHA chief digital officer Steven Issa said.

"The Innovation Challenge will also support Australia's digital economy now so that it can continue to excel into the future."

Themes highlighted by the ADHA in an expression of interest for the challenge on AusTender are: Digital clinical care, digital social care, and digital health population management and future preparedness.

A total payment of up to AU$50,000 is available for each potential solution that is subject to this innovation challenge.

At the time of writing, the World Health Organization reported that there have been nearly 3.3 million confirmed cases, with almost 240,000 fatalities as a result of the virus. Australia has reported around 6,800 cases and 95 deaths.

More than 633,000 tests have been conducted across Australia.