A New Zealand Cabinet Minister has joined the Australian Digital and Data Council for the first time as state and federal ministers – and now for the first time a New Zealand representative – discussed data and digital challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Australian Digital and Data Council is chaired by federal Government Services Minister Stuart Robert as a full part of the Australian Council of Australian Governments (COAG) infrastructure. It is made up of all state and federal data and digital ministers, and now New Zealand.
The council met via videoconference on Friday, to discuss the rapid evolution of government service delivery under the challenging environment of the coronavirus, and in particular the just-released COVIDSafe contact tracing app.
Joining the call was New Zealand’s Kris Faafoi as the Minister for Government Digital Services, but who also holds the Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media ministry, as well as the Commerce and Consumer Affairs portfolio.
While the official communique notes that Minister welcomed New Zealand to the membership of the Australian Data and Digital Council, it also noted that “New Zealand is not a party to this communique”.
The communique says nothing on whether the contact tracing app might help enable an earlier than expected trans-Tasman easing of travel restrictions and trade, saying only that the governments would share experiences.
“New Zealand and the Commonwealth committed to sharing experiences and lessons learnt with regard to digital contact tracing technology,” the communique said.
“Ministers discussed the importance of ensuring and increasing the public’s trust in government for the ability to use technology tools to help manage Coronavirus spread in the community.”
The ministers acknowledged privacy concerns are still front and centre for many people when deciding whether to download the app and were an important consideration in the app’s design, while noting that more than 3.5 million Australians had already downloaded the software.
They recommitted to deleting permanently both the app and the information on it once the coronavirus pandemic was over and the Australia no longer needs the app.
The council, which in ordinary times would meet on a roughly once-a-quarter timetable, has committed to meeting via videoconference every four weeks for the medium term.
The also discussed the role of data in supporting decision-makers across jurisdictions to make timely, evidence-based decisions to address a range of needs, including social, economic and health.
“Ministers noted work underway to identify analytical questions and associated data sharing requirements to support COVID-19 response and recovery, and agreed to work collegiately to investigate effective solutions that support decision-making, including through a dedicated official-level group,” the communique said.
On the call on Friday were:
- Stuart Robert MP (Federal)
- Victor Dominello MP (NSW)
- Danny Pearson MP (Victoria)
- Dave Kelly MLA (WA)
- David Pisoni MP (SA)
- Michael Ferguson MP (Tas)
- Mick Gentleman (ACT)
- Lauren Moss MLA (NT)
- Kris Faafoi (NZ)