01 May 2018

new Australian Data Commissioner

The national Government has released its response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Data Availability and Use.

The report was noted here.

The response refers to $65 million over the forward estimates to 'reform the Australian data system and introduce a range of measures to implement the Productivity Commission’s recommendations'.

Three key features:
1. A new Consumer Data Right will give citizens greater transparency and control over their own data 
2. A National Data Commissioner will 'implement and oversee a simpler, more efficient data sharing and release framework. The National Data Commissioner will be the trusted overseer of the public data system' 
3. New legislative and governance arrangements will enable better use of data across the economy while ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place to protect sensitive information
The response refers to 'A new Data Sharing and Release Act'
The Government will introduce laws underpinning a new system for data sharing and release in Australia. This legislation will establish institutional and governance arrangements including Accredited Data Authorities and a trusted user framework to facilitate better sharing of data. The legislative package will set clear rules and expectations for data sharing and release, including making clear when data can be shared, and embedding strong safeguards for sensitive data and effective risk management practices. 
Balancing access and secrecy through a trusted user framework 
The Productivity Commission found, in some cases, secrecy provisions in existing laws could unreasonably hinder data sharing and release for matters of public interest. Australia's secrecy provisions relating to access to and use of identifiable data have been set after thorough consideration of our national interests, and will not be changed without careful consideration. The data sharing and release legislative package will provide a robust authorisation process, balancing the operation of secrecy provisions with data sharing and release for public interest purposes. Importantly, the new legislation will not affect existing protections applying to particularly sensitive data, such as national security and law enforcement data. A number of key data safeguards will apply.
Presumably development of the Act will involve consultation, with the response stating
The Government agrees to actively engage with the community on matters related to data availability and use. Engagement is key to the OpenGovernment National Action Plan 2016–2018 and the Data Integration Partnership for Australia, and will be acore function of reformed institutional and governance arrangements. The Open Government National Action Plan 2016-2018 commits to providing better access to government-held information and data, while improving privacy risk management capability across the public sector.
A position to be called the National Data Commissioner will be established alongside 'a new data sharing and release framework' (and alongside the OAIC?).
This will streamline the way public data is shared and released, which will in turn:
  • Promote greater use of data 
  • Drive economic benefits and innovation from greater use of data, and 
  • Build trust with the Australian community about the government’s use of data.
Realising benefits from data for all Australians needs a powerful champion with a mandate to unlock the productivity benefits of valuable datasets, identify opportunities for improved data use, and build national frameworks and guidelines. 
Many benefits of better data use within governments arise from improvements in economic productivity—by providing a stronger evidence base, more efficient systems, and competitive product and service offerings in the market economy. However, a balance must be struck between utilising data for the benefit of the Australian economy and society, and ensuring community trust in the way government uses data. 
The National Data Commissioner will provide a consistent and well-defined approach to data management, including proactively managing risks, dealing with complaints and monitoring the integrity of the data sharing and release framework. This will increase community trust and confidence in the way government manages and uses its data. 
The Australian Bureau of Statistics will provide technical guidance and support to the National Data Commissioner. 
A new National Data Advisory Council will advise the National Data Commissioner on ethical data use, technical best practice, and industry and international developments. 
A cultural change is required from agencies to ensure greater data sharing within government and support for whole-of-government initiatives and reforms. The new data sharing and release framework will support a drive for cultural change within government towards greater data sharing while mitigating the risks associated with sharing of personal data. Better legislative and governance arrangements will ensure government gets the maximum benefits from the data it already holds and collects while maintaining public trust in how data is being used. This will enable government to meet community expectations to be efficient and to use the data it already has more productively.
Let's trust that the enthusiasts within the Prime Minister's Department - where there is a disjunct between the suits and digital hipsters - heed the lessons of the UK Care.Data debacle.