15 November 2011


The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has released a 40 page public discussion paper [PDF] regarding the valuation of 'public information'.

The paper states that -
Information is a valuable resource. The right information at the right time can expand knowledge, enable innovation, boost productivity, and even save lives. Unlike other valuable resources information is not diminished by use. Indeed, the value of information can be enhanced when it is openly accessible and reused frequently.

The term 'public sector information' appropriately describes the information gathered by government and captures its intrinsic value. In essence, it is a national resource and there are corresponding obligations on government officers to ensure that it is managed responsibly and astutely.

A key objective in government information management must be that public sector information (PSI) is made available to the community as openly as possible and is both discoverable and reusable. This was the central message in the 2009 report of the Government 2.0 Taskforce [questioned here]. The taskforce envisaged a role for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) in promoting open PSI and recommended that the office develop a methodology for agencies to report annually to government on the value generated by published PSI.

This paper commences that process. The first step is to build a better picture of the PSI landscape in Australia. Initially, agencies must be supported in gathering the necessary data, so that a methodology for evaluating that data can be applied.

The major proposal of this Issues Paper is that agencies should complete a survey form that will gather consistent information across government on information management practices. A draft survey form is published in the Appendix. It is tied to the eight Principles on open public sector information that the OAIC launched in May 2011. The Principles reflect the information lifecycle in government information management and, as the title conveys, work from a premise of open PSI.

The paper proposes that the survey be administered by the OAIC in May 2012, following public consultation on the ideas presented in this paper. The survey will be administered both to government agencies and to re-users of PSI. The information collected in the survey will then be used by the OAIC in at least three ways. One will be in a public report by the OAIC on the Australian PSI landscape and the value of publication. The second will be in developing a methodology for valuing PSI, as envisaged by the Gov 2.0 taskforce. The third will be in discussion between the OAIC and the newly-appointed Information Advisory Council, in developing advice to government on national information policy.
The OAIC has invited submissions on three issues -
1 The ideas presented in the Issues Paper: does the paper propose a workable approach for mapping the PSI landscape and developing a methodology for valuing PSI?

2 The draft survey form in the Appendix to the paper: is the survey form appropriately framed to address the right issues and gather useful information?

3 The literature survey in Part 4 of the paper: does this survey adequately cover the field, and are there gaps or limitations in the existing research?