22 April 2022
Emil Jeyaratnam

Australian Data Strategy

Recognising the importance and value of data as a national asset, the Federal Government released the national Australian Data Strategy in December 2021.

The strategy outlines the Government's vision to unlock the economic and social potential of data, and support Australia’s transition to becoming a data-driven economy.

The strategy takes a whole-of-economy approach and focuses on three key themes:

  1. Maximising the value of data
  2. Trust and protection
  3. Enabling data use

The strategy is accompanied by an Action Plan and considers the impact and use of data within government, private industry, research institutions, the not-for-profit sector and the general public.

The national policy landscape

The Australian Data Strategy comes under the overarching Digital Economy Strategy (see our blog on the 2022 Digital Economy Strategy Update). The Australian Data Strategy sits alongside other policy and strategy documents such as the Australian Cyber Security Strategy, the National Data Security Action Plan, Data Availability and Transparency Act, the Consumer Data Right and the Productivity Commission’s 2017 Inquiry into Data Availability and Use.

Policy landscape

Australia's digital and data policy landscape
Commonwealth of Australia, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australian Data Strategy: The Australian Government’s whole-of-economy vision for data
Policy landscape

Australia's policy landscape

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The strategy does not introduce new regulations or legislation, but complements and aligns with existing legislation, such as the Privacy Act, Freedom of Information Act, and the Data Availability and Transparency (DAT) Act.

Maximising the value of data

By now, many of us have heard the saying, “data is the new oil”. Whether this is true or not, there is no denying data is becoming an increasingly important asset for governments, businesses and society as a whole.

Better and effective use of data can:

  • Improve service delivery
  • Provide better outcomes for citizens
  • Enable innovation of new products, services and business models

And while data is generated, collected and used in both public and private sectors, the government can play a key role in supporting agencies, institutions and businesses to realise the true potential of their datasets and increase productivity. The Australian Data Strategy looks at how to maximise the use of data, and to unlock the value of data across all stages of the data lifecycle — from generation and collection to analysis and end use (as well as how data should be safely and securely shared, stored and destroyed).

To be of value, data needs to be used and shared. The strategy references key frameworks, agreements and legislation that provide guidelines on how data should be shared and reduce barriers to sharing data across government jurisdictions. These include:

  • The Australian Government’s Data Sharing Principles — developed by the Office of the National Data Commissioner (ONDC)
  • The Intergovernmental Agreement on Data Sharing, which was signed in July 2021 and commits all jurisdictions to share public sector data as a default position
  • Data Availability and Transparency Act, which provides a framework for sharing government data

Trust and protection

If data is considered a foundational national asset, then it needs to be protected. It’s critical Australia develops a mature ecosystem that provides easier, safer and secure access to data.

The National Data Security Action Plan provides a framework for securing data in transit, stored in the cloud and in third-party data centres. The Critical Infrastructure Bill also aims to improve security across several areas, including data storage and processing.

The strategy also identifies the importance of being transparent about how data is collected and used. Ethics and integrity need to be considered at every stage of the data lifecycle so citizens can be assured data is used appropriately and their privacy is protected.

Enabling data use

The strategy acknowledges the need to invest in data infrastructure, improve data literacy and build skills and capabilities to achieve the desired outcomes. Other key enablers to increase the use of data are:

  • Adopt modern data standards
  • Improve data management practices
  • Enable data integration
  • Encourage and enable government to release more data publicly

For data to be trusted and used, it must meet appropriate quality standards. It needs to be accurate, current and have associated metadata. The strategy identifies the need to have good data management practices. Having consistent data standards and classification frameworks will greatly increase the use and sharing of data.

The strategy also highlights the importance of increasing data maturity across all levels of government (as well as in the private sector and research institutions). The strategy points to the ONDC’s Foundational Four as a guide for how government agencies can improve their data practices and increase the overall quality of their data assets.

Have your say

The Australian Data Strategy is an important document to guide Australia to becoming a modern digital economy. In developing the strategy, the government consulted with the private sector, research institutions and not-for-profit organisations. 

But the strategy is a work in progress and the government is calling for submissions from individuals and organisations on its strategy. The public consultation on the strategy will end in June 2022.