​NSW appoints Data Analytics Centre advisory board

The New South Wales government has unveiled the members of an advisory board formed to support the state's newly created Data Analytics Centre.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The New South Wales government has announced the establishment of an advisory board that will provide strategic advice and support to the NSW Data Analytics Centre.

The advisory board will be chaired by Tim Thurman, who is currently the CIO of the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

Joining Thurman is the state's chief scientist and engineer Mary O'Kane; Michael Pratt, who is the NSW customer service commissioner; professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, the University of Sydney's director of the Centre for Translational Data Science; Attila Brungs, vice chancellor and president of the University of Technology Sydney; and Kate Carruthers, deputy director for business analytics and data governance at the University of New South Wales.

Paul Cousins, head of geospatial for Australia and New Zealand at search giant Google; startup incubator Fishburners general manager Murray Hurps; CEO of Stone and Chalk Alex Scandurra; and Ian Hill, the group head of innovation at Westpac, will also have a spot on the board.

The advisory board will work closely with Dr Ian Oppermann, who has been CEO of the NSW Data Analytics Centre since late 2015.

"Tim's experience and expertise at the ASX, where he is overseeing the implementation of a AU$50 million digital strategy, will assist the government with the digitising of service delivery and implementation of whole-of-government innovation priorities," Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello said.

"The board will advise government on priorities and the key partnerships across industry, government, and research sectors that should be forged to ensure outcomes are delivered."

According to Dominello, the NSW Advisory Board is the first of its kind in Australia, with the minister saying it facilitates data sharing between agencies to inform more efficient, strategic, whole-of-government evidence-based decision making.

Dominello first announced the state's plans to create the Data Analytics Centre in August last year, saying at the time that data is one of the greatest assets held by government, but when it is buried away in bureaucracy, it is of little value.

Previously, he said in order to make the Data Analytics Centre work, he had to introduce a Bill to Parliament that required each of the agencies and state-owned amenities to give his department their data.

The Data Sharing Government Sector Bill [PDF] outlines to state government agencies what and how they must share their data with Dominello's Data Analytics Centre. It gives Dominello authority to collect data within 14 days.

"If I did not push this Bill through Parliament, I can guarantee you I'd be getting the data in dribs and drabs in passages over months, if not years," he said. "I don't have a year or two years to muck around."

Eventually, Dominello said he wants to see the centre receive live-streaming data.

"The key word to get this across the line in terms of inside the government is collaboration," he said.

Speaking of the initiative in November, Secretary of NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation Martin Hoffman said the introduction of the centre made it easier for departments and sectors to join up and share data.

According to Hoffman, the data analytics centre operates on a brokering and commissioning type model, which he said is focused on specific projects where the government believes data analytics and data sets can make a difference to policy development or program delivery.

"We'll be doing that by looking for brokering or commissioning capability from the private sector, be it small business, large business, universities, research institutes such as Data61, who are able to actually do the work," he said.

"Certainly better than government duplicating and attempting to invest in a floor of people down near Central station with large scale data analytics capabilities. It's not needed. What we need is a small group of smart people who will broker and commission specific projects out into the community."

Following Malcolm Turnbull's AU$1.1 billion innovation lead, Dominello revealed in February that he had pencilled in May as the date for unveiling the state's first innovation policy.

Although tight-lipped on the content of the agenda, Dominello did say the policy will have a key focus on data analytics and how to utilise it to cut state costs.

"One of the things we're doing is around commercialisation -- how we can invest in the NSW economy in the data age and a lot of that will be around what powerful formulas we have that can include social outcomes where governments are spending more than they need to," he said.

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