The government will invest nearly $131 million to create a cross-portfolio data platform to bring together disparate data in order to analyse the long-term effectiveness of public policy.
The so-called Data Integration Partnership for Australia (DIPA) initiative would receive $130.8 million over three years through the Public Sector Modernisation Fund, Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said.
DIPA aims to “maximise use of the government’s vast data assets, allowing cost effective and timely insights into data that is already available” in order to deliver improved programs and policy.
Data analysis would allow government to prioritise resources in areas like health, welfare and education, better allocate funding to programs and reduce the number of duplicative analysis costs, Mr Taylor said.
While the Productivity Commission regularly analyses the effectiveness of government policies, the new program would provide long-term analysis using public data, and would also work across different portfolios to bring together separate data sets.
Government would create data-analysing teams with the aim of creating a platform that brings together a wide range of data on government policies and programs.
“High quality analytics from specialty skilled teams is one of the most important developments I want to see in government. That’s not to say that there’s that capability now, but what we must get to is the ability for decisions to be made on best available data with little to no lead time,” Mr Taylor told InnovationAus.com.
“And in my opinion those teams should be both private and public sector,”
DIPA would analyse longitudinal data on populations, businesses, the environment and government in order to guide the subsequent development of policies and programs.
“Data analytics provides an extraordinary opportunity to support policy development and deliver real outcomes for Australians. A central capability within the DIPA will coordinate specialised teams focused on social, industry, environmental and government efficiency policies,” Mr Taylor said in a statement.
He said one of DIPA’s “most exciting” functions would be using integrated datasets to help the government prioritise resources in areas like health, welfare and education.
He said the data-analysing would also be used to identify and prevent risk of disability in the workplace, supporting ongoing workforce participation for those with a disability, and to better understanding the impacts of medications in order to avoid adverse reactions.
DIPA’s data analytics teams would then create “high-value national data assets to build longitudinal data about populations, businesses, the environment and government to inform the development and evaluation of policies and programs”.
The $130.8 million in funding will come out of the $500 million Public Sector Modernisation Fund, which was revealed in last year’s federal budget. The fund is aiming to support the transition of government agencies to more “modern and sustainable operating models” and upgrade the cultural infrastructure in national institutions.
The CSIRO’s Data61 will also be assisting DIPA with data analysis techniques.
In order to address privacy concerns, data used is to be de-identified and analysed in “controlled environments” that are governed by strict processes and legislation.
DIPA would also be subject to the new privacy code for the Australian public sector, which will be developed this year and implemented in 2018.
Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said there is an “urgent need” for the code following a series of high-profile bungles with data and the government’s increasing focus on making big data publicly available.
“Many APS agencies have powers to collect personal information on a compulsory basis, in exchange for the provision of services and payments. This means that individuals are not always able to exercise meaningful choice over how their personal information is used,” Mr Pilgrim said.
“These factors underline the existence of a strong need for APS agencies to enhance their existing privacy capability to enable them to better prepare for contemporary privacy issues.”
But the code won’t be placing any new obligations or rules on agencies, instead providing practical ways to meet the existing obligations under the Australian Privacy Principles.
“The APS first needs to take steps to build public trust and confidence in the ability of the APS to implement its agenda consistent with community expectations, and in a way that respects privacy. There is a need to strengthen the overall privacy governance processes with APS agencies,” Mr Pilgrim said.
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