Government data deemed a ‘strategic national resource’

Data held by the federal government is a “strategic national resource”, according to a new policy statement authorised by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Under the policy, the government will push to expand public access to the data it creates.

The government yesterday released the its Public Data Policy Statement to coincide with the launch of its $1.1b innovation agenda.

The policy commits the government to an approach of open by default for non-sensitive data sets and to collaborating with researchers and the private sector to expand the use of government-collected data.

Where possible, the government will make data available through easy-to-use APIs. High value data sets will be made available for use “in a manner that is enduring and frequently updated using high quality standards”.

Data should be made available in a machine-readable format with descriptive metadata, and open standards should be employed, the policy states.

Appropriately anonymised data should be released under Creative Commons by Attribution licence, unless there is a case made to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for another open licence, the policy states.

Non-sensitive data generated as part of publicly funded research will be made available where possible.

Only some specialised data services should be charged for, the statement says.

As part of the innovation agenda, PSMA Australia Limited’s Geocoded National Address File will be made openly available.

PSMA is owned by the federal, state and territory government and aggregates location data from across jurisdictions.

“The previous licencing arrangements for accessing the G-NAF were highly restrictive, preventing optimal collaboration and data sharing between existing users,” Helen Owens wrote in a blog entry for

“This resulted in underutilisation of the data,” Owens wrote.

The policy also commits the government to upholding security and privacy.

The government revealed in October the creation of a new Public Data Branch within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC).

The new entity brought together the Department of Finance’s open data and with the Department of Communications and the Arts’ Data Policy Branch and Digital Government Strategy.

In November the DPMC and incubator Pollenizer launched a new program intended to help boost the use of open data.

The Labor Party has unveiled a National Information Policy. The policy includes the creation of an Independent Data Council and a systematic scan of institutions, policies and regulations to "identify obstacles to optimal data generation, protection, access and use".

"Developing a world leading data access and governance environment in Australia will significantly add to the nation’s research capacity and increase the nation’s attractiveness as an investment destination," a media statement issued by Labor said.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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