Feds drive $15m data share pilot

Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

The federal government has earmarked $15 million to create a national disability dataset, on the back of plans to introduce a consent-free public sector data sharing scheme.

The agreement emerged from the COAG Australian Data and Digital council meeting in Brisbane on Friday, the first to be chaired by Government Services minister Stuart Robert.

The Commonwealth is to provide up to $15 million to fund the trial, which would collate data from the Federal government, as well as New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

The system would “help inform service choices by people with disabilities and their carers” and “paves the way for a federation-wide view of the lived experience of Australians with disability”, Mr Robert said.

“[It] will give government the insights it needs to better understand and address the challenges facing Australians with disability, irrespective of their location,” Mr Robert said.

“I am proud to lead the national effort to deliver better outcomes for all Australians with disability and today’s partnership is a key part of that endeavour. It is a clear example of the benefits of using data to provide better outcomes for those Australians that need it most.”

Current barriers to sharing data between Australian jurisdictions was impeding governments’ ability to delivery services for Australians with a disability, the Council communique said, and the longitudinal dataset would come from multiple levels of government.

“This is an exciting collaboration – the first of its kind – and will allow governments to better understand how people with disability are supported through services, payments and programs across multiple service systems,” the communique said.

The findings from the pilot are to be presented in mid-2020, and the senior officials group has been told to prioritise the development of a business case and a sustainable funding model with an aim to encourage the other states and territories to opt into the asset.

The pilot appears closely linked to the government’s proposed Data Sharing and Release bill, which it said would “streamline and modernise” the sharing of government-held data sets between departments and jurisdictions.

A discussion paper released by the government last week revealed that the mandatory public data sharing scheme won’t require consent from citizens, and the data authority would not have the power to prevent the sharing of certain information.

The new scheme would “empower” departments to share data more often with “trusted users for specific purposes” by removing the “complex legislative barriers and outdated secrecy provisions”.

The COAG data council also agreed to the federal government’s planned national approach to improve the delivery of government services at key life events, such as having a baby or looking for work. This was outlined in the Digital Transformation Strategy, which the government unveiled late last year.

The attending IT ministers discussed the need to reduce duplication, ensure the efficient use of shared resources and maximise the benefits of cross-jurisdictional learning.

Across all data-sharing practices, the Council acknowledged the need to earn community trust.

“Ministers discussed the importance of community trust. All governments acknowledged that these important reforms are designed to improve the lives of citizens, but they must progress with community buy-in and support,” the communique said.

The terms of reference for the council were revealed last month, nearly a year after it was formally introduced as part of the COAG forum. The group has been told to focus on improving outcomes for “customers” through better cross-government collaboration on data and digital transformation.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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