The Australian government’s peak ICT policy agency, Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), has launched a new Australian Public Service Big Data Strategy. This launch underscores moves to better understand, use and share data held by agencies delivering front-line services, and holding vast repositories of information.
This strategy’s launch coincides with an April 2013 opening of a whole-of-government Data Analytics Centre of Excellence by the Australian Taxation Office. This centre marks a sea change in the way volumes of government data is handled, accessed and managed.
Among the trends, AGIMO notes that 90 per cent of the worldwide data was created in just the last two years. “Some estimate that data production will be 44 times greater in 2020 than it was in 2009. Others estimate an additional 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is being generated every day.”
Making sense of data
Big data as well as analytics and mining tools help end-users better analyse and make sense of the vast repositories of information. This is especially so for massive data banks held by agencies in Australia and globally.
“Indeed, big data, as an emerging concept, intersects with many data management issues that pre-date this concept,” notes AGIMO.
Big data management underscores the value of data held by Commonwealth agencies. These agencies carry a shared responsibility to realise – and fully deliver – the value of this data. Streamlined access to data also benefits citizens, while complying with privacy and security guidelines.
AGIMO and member agencies aim to clarify what is meant by big data; how this intersects with the concept of data as an asset, and supports an open government environment.
To deliver value, Commonwealth data, including that used for analytics projects, must be “authentic, accurate and reliable.” Big data incorporates the vast amount of data that is generated and captured in a variety of formats, and from many different and disparate sources. These repositories incorporate structured, semi-structured, unstructured or even incomplete data.
Data as a national asset
Governments generate massive volumes of data. This data is used for administration, policy development, and to interact with citizens. “It is part of the government’s responsibility to realise the value of this data and the information contained within it, and to recognise this data as a national asset to both the government and the Australian public.”
Governments cannot realise this value without help from industry and academia. “As a result, Australia, along with many other advanced economies, is increasingly seeking to provide data to third parties for analysis, or to support the provision of services, for example through the development of mobile apps.”
Tackling privacy concerns
Under privacy guidelines, Australia will continue protecting individuals’ privacy rights. “Big data raises new challenges in respect to the privacy and security of data.”
Data management policies are guided by relevant legislative controls. These laws and guidelines regulate government’s use and release of data sets and information.
Agencies are encouraged to develop best-practices to link cross-agency data sets, as well as the use of third-party data sets, domestically and internationally.
Any release of open data factors in privacy considerations. Data protection guidelines are upheld by Australia’s Data Protection Guidelines, among other privacy checks and balances.