​DTA takes on responsibility for government data-driven platforms

Responsibility for the government's data.gov.au and NationalMap platforms has been moved to the Digital Transformation Agency.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The federal government has announced the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) will be taking over responsibility of a handful of its public-facing data-driven initiatives.

Handing over responsibility of the data.gov.au and NationalMap platforms from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) to the DTA forms part of the government's push to bring all of its digital services under the one roof.

Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor touted the move as one allowing government to "streamline its approach to delivering high-value platforms".

"The DTA works on many whole-of-government solutions and it makes sense to roll over these data platforms which interact closely with work the DTA already does," Taylor said in a statement on Thursday.

The Australian government initially launched data.gov.au in 2010 as a tool allowing the publishing of open data across all jurisdictions of government in the country. It then evolved in 2013 to see application programming interface (API)-style access to datasets.

Since then, more data has been collected, and more government departments, enterprises large and small, and the average Australian citizen have become eager to get their hands on the information.

As a result, PM&C turned to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation's (CSIRO) Data61 to build out a "world-leading" data infrastructure -- essentially a revamp of the data.gov.au portal and the NationalMap project.

According to the government, approximately 52,000 users have visited data.gov.au and 12,000 users have visited the NationalMap website in the past month.

CSIRO was handed a total of AU$2.77 billion in funding as part of the 2017-18 federal Budget, with open data high on the agenda for both Data61 and the government.

The federal government also used the Budget 2017-18 to reaffirm its commitment to such 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.

This will reduce duplication and increase efficiency in using such data, the government said.

"Through enhanced data analytics, the government will be able to design better-targeted and more effective services in education, social services, health, and aged care," the government said in the Budget.

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

The Budget also committed AU$15.2 million to continue development of the government's Govpass platform, which Taylor said on Thursday is now in private beta phase, and will be shared publicly in coming months.

"Through Govpass, Australians will be able to easily and safely prove who they are when using government services online. A simple task like applying for a tax file number will be reduced from about 30 days to a matter of minutes," Taylor explained.

The Budget also committed $33.6 million to develop four additional platforms that can be shared across government, including a "Tell us Once" option to allow Australians to update their details only once and share the information with agencies and service providers of their choice.

When the DTA was renamed from the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) in October, it also received a new remit, which included working with government departments and agencies to bring their digital services up to scratch.

Also on Thursday, the government introduced legislation to remove the double taxation of digital currency, hoping the move will promote the growth of Australia's fintech industry.

The Bill will result in citizens no longer being charged GST on purchases of digital currency such as bitcoin and ethereum, allowing it to be treated the same way as physical money for GST purposes.

"This measure will ensure purchases of digital currency are no longer subject to the GST. Removing double taxation on digital currencies will remove an obstacle for the financial technology (fintech) sector to grow in Australia," the government's said when delivering its 2017-18 Budget.

The law will retrospectively apply from July 1, 2017.

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