The Federal Government has outlined a new ‘universal data rights’ regime that gives consumers ownership of the transactional data they generate as customers, regardless of whether it is with a bank, a telecommunications provider, an energy utility or retailer.
Coupled with a Government-facilitated digital identity program, the new open data regime is being framed as the driver for the next wave of competition improvements across the economy.
Speaking at a data transparency conference in Washington, Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said government intervention to open up consumer access to data and standardise digital identity would reduce costs and improve services across the economy.
“These two initiatives are the bedrock that would allow any consumer to access a service better suited to them in a matter of minutes, and with little hassle,” Mr Taylor said.
“This is a massive breakthrough, offering customers and businesses enormous benefits.”
The government is working with industry to develop a standardised set of APIs that will be mandated to make data easily available to consumers and third-party service providers.
The APIs will be specific to each industry and typically include usage history, pricing and ‘package’ information.
Just as the open banking initiatives are expected to drive huge activity among FinTechs, the new universal data rights regime is a huge opportunities for the startup sector.
The Digital Transformation Agency is understood to have given some stakeholders access to its new Trusted Digital Identity Framework as a private beta, and will be released more generally within weeks.
“In financial services, energy and telecommunications, as well as the provision of public services like health and education, consumers are struggling with a proliferation of plans and high barriers, to switch between providers.
“We believe that in the modern economy, access to open standardised data and a common understanding of digital identity are the next great enablers of competition in Australia,” Mr Taylor said.
“Greater access to comparison data and reduced switching costs will facilitate increased choice, better service and reduced outlays for all Australians.”
“We are currently working towards providing a platform of policy, legislation and standards that will support consumers getting a better deal.”
Mr Taylor is expected to announce details of the ‘universal data rights’ scheme over the next several weeks as part of the government’s formal response to the Productivity Commission’s report on “Data Availability and Use.”
Moves to give consumers better access to banking data through the open banking regime announced by Treasurer Scott Morrison in his Budget speech in May, the application of open data regulation across other industries has gone under the radar.
While the Treasurer has carriage of government efforts toward an open banking regime, Mr Taylor is driving open data initiatives across the rest of the economy.
As a former businessman and as a Minister, Mr Taylor is not known for instincts that would call for government intervention in a market. But he says benefits of open data can’t be ignored – and can’t be accessed without an agreed regime.
“I do believe that the market is best left to its own devices whenever that is possible. But there are occasions where the Government can play a crucial role,” he said.
“And I am convinced that universal access to data and access to a common digital identity for businesses and citizens is one of those areas.”
“Competition policy in Australia … will continue to need to focus on preventing anti-competitive behaviour. However, enabling consumers to regulate markets themselves is, in my view, where competition policy can make big inroads.”
He says consumers have taken more control of markets like taxis and accommodation through application like Airbnb and Uber.
Mr Taylor, who is a self-described “data geek”, says the Turnbull Government has deliberately adopted – and adapted – best-practice programs from across the world to drive its public sector innovation programs.
The Australian Government had taken the US experience in open data; the Israeli program us driving innovation through government procurement; New Zealand’s use of longitudinal cross-agency data sets; the UK’s breaking up of large IT contracts to extract better value; and Europe’s recognition of the importance of standards, data rights and digital identity.
“Developing this melting pot of ideas is easier for a country which is itself a melting pot of skilled immigrants coming from all parts of the globe,” Mr Taylor said.
“And similar to our success in bringing great people to our country – our success in data and digital is starting to be recognised with our ranking at the top of the Global Open Data Index.”