NSW Transport awards $1.8m online open data hub contract

The New South Wales government has awarded AU$1.8 million to Melbourne-based Versent to build a new online open data hub for the state's transport department.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Transport New South Wales has contracted cloud managed services firm Versent Pty Ltd for the creation of a AU$1.8 million online open data hub.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said the open data hub will provide a platform for app developers across the world to innovate and deliver new ideas to customers.

"Already we've seen over 3 million downloads of real time transport apps to date and 90 million requests for timetable data each month," he said. "We're taking this even further by building a platform that will make information accessible to anyone who wants it.

"To start, we will make real-time transport data open for everyone to access -- but with big developments in areas like Opal data -- the possibilities are endless. Once we get the platform up and running by mid-year, we will work with the community to prioritise the data we make available."

Constance said the NSW government was opening the doors to new ideas and apps from around the world and this was just the start.

The minister also announced the launch of two apps for Sydney's transport ecosystem: Moovit and Transit App.

"This is a win for transport customers -- two global transit apps available in more 700 cities worldwide are now live with Sydney transport information," Constance said. "This is also great for tourists who can now access the apps they use at home, to get around our great global city.

"Together these apps have more downloads than our entire country's population, but as our Future Transport agenda progresses we'll have more ground-breaking ideas to offer our customers."

The NSW government made its data open by default in 2013, with Constance saying at the time that open data would drive the development of new apps, and transform the government.

"Open data is at the heart of open government and we have developed a principles-based approach to the way public sector agencies provide access to their information," he said at the time.

Its policy, released in November that year, stipulated that government agencies must "start from a position of data openness", except for when there is an "overriding reason" for data not to be released.

In July 2014, the NSW government then launched its revamped Open Data Dashboard, data.nsw.gov.au, to provide information to the public on recently added and updated datasets and case studies on how data has been employed during the development of apps.

Earlier this week, the federal government released a research paper on the economic impact of open government data, saying it could generate up to AU$25 billion per year, contributing approximately 1.5 percent of Australia's GDP.

The government said open government data will enhance innovation among industry, improve transparency in government spending, and promote choice for citizens, adding that employing open data initiatives will also "generate new careers, more efficient government revenues, improved business practices, and drive better public engagement".

"In Australia, users can already access and reuse more than 7,000 government datasets published on data.gov.au," Paul Paterson, chief economist and head of the Bureau of Communications Research, said.

"Some of the high-value datasets include geospatial/mapping data, health data, transport data, mining data, environmental data, demographics data, and real-time emergency data."

Opal transport smart card data has also been available without a warrant, with the state's Police and the Department of Immigration making over 180 requests for data in the space of six-months.

A spokesperson for Transport for NSW said at the time that requests for data need to comply with relevant legislation.

"When Transport for NSW receives a request for information from a law enforcement agency, it will consider the request on the basis of the relevant legislation and Opal's privacy policy criteria," the spokesperson said.

"Transport for NSW has only released information for around 30 percent of law enforcement requests. Information has only been released because it related to a missing person or to an offence that is known, or reasonably suspected, to have occurred."

Earlier this month, the NSW government released a position paper that discussed how it hopes to address what it called the collaborative economy, saying technology has the potential to reduce the administrative costs for regulated entities and regulatory agencies.

"The collaborative economy is a rapidly growing area of the economy, comprised of a variety of business models that typically consist of a platform, suppliers, and customers," the paper says.

"While the concept of collaborative business is not new, recent developments in technology and digital platforms are connecting market participants in new ways, resulting in innovative business models."

This comes in the wake of NSW becoming the second state or territory in the country to regulate ridesharing, and allow services such as controversial Uber to operate.

The NSW government became the frontrunner in digitalising its services, launching Service NSW in July 2014, bringing together a number of different state services under the one office, including RMS; Births, Deaths and Marriages; and small business support.

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