Date:
25 July 2022
Author:
Emil Jeyaratnam

Launched in June 2021, the NSW Government Data Strategy provides a framework for using and sharing data more effectively to create better outcomes for citizens. The strategy is part of a significant data reform the NSW government embarked on several years ago. The reform consists of three phases:

  1. Phase 1: embed data practices to deliver data-driven insights during COVID-19 pandemic
  2. Phase 2: develop and launch a new data strategy
  3. Phase 3: review the NSW Data Sharing Act 2015

The COVID pandemic, bushfires and floods have highlighted the importance of data in enabling more effective decision making within government. The pandemic resulted in departments and agencies frequently sharing data and collaborating to gain insights and solve problems. The increased reliance and use of data has also shown the importance of appropriate data governance and security.

The NSW Data Strategy responds to these challenges and outlines how to maximise the value of data.

The NSW Data Strategy

The NSW Data Strategy puts data central to government decision making, while providing strong safeguards to protect privacy and ensuring it is used ethically.

The strategy focuses on four key themes:

  • Accelerating actionable insights: increase the sharing of data from trusted sources to generate actionable insights and make these insights easily available to decision makers.
  • Treating data as an asset: recognise government data has significant value so it is effectively managed and protected, and adopt whole-of-government standards and practices to increase the discoverability and usability of data assets.
  • Strengthening transparency and trust: implement appropriate safeguards to secure data assets, protect customer rights and their privacy, and ensure data is used ethically.
  • Fostering culture, leadership and capability: provide staff with knowledge, skills and resources to safely and effectively leverage data assets to create better outcomes for citizens.

Accelerating actionable insights

The last few years have highlighted the importance of data in aiding decision making. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular saw unprecedented collaboration and data sharing across government — not just within NSW, but across national and state jurisdictions. Being able to make timely, evidenced-based decisions resulted in better outcomes and increased trust in government.

The NSW Data Strategy aim to make actionable insights easily available to decision makers in a timely manner. This requires collating the right data from trusted sources, including all jurisdictions of government, research institutions and the private sector.

The strategy outlines the need for advanced data analytics capabilities such as machine learning and predictive modelling to provide insights, as well as self-service "insight hubs" to allow decision makers to access insights easily and efficiently. An example of an insight hub is the New South Wales (NSW) Trend Atlas.

Treating data as an asset

Recognising the true value of data and treating data as an asset enables the government to identify key datasets that enable the delivery of services and improve outcomes for citizens. The data strategy aims to help NSW government make better use of data by developing enduring de-identified assets that brings together data from across government. Examples of valuable data assets include the NSW Human Services Data Set and the Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study.

The strategy identifies the importance of aligning investment in data with strategic objectives, and ensuring the spending on data is transparent. This will require development of guidelines to estimate the cost of data management and the value created by the use of data assets.

Creating more awareness and promoting use of existing data infrastructure, such as the Information Asset Register (IAR), will also be important to achieving the desired outcomes.

Strengthening transparency and trust

The NSW Data Strategy recognises the ever increasing risks to privacy and cybersecurity as more and more data is collected, used and shared. The strategy outlines the need to establish safe, consistent and transparent approaches to data sharing, as well as the importance of having effective data governance practices. It is important for government to understand and align with community expectations. 

The strategy recommends conforming to the NSW Government Customer Commitments and the Australian Digital and Data Ministers’ Meeting Trust Principles to establish trust with citizens, and ensure that data is safeguarded and used ethically. Additionally, the data strategy calls for engagement with Aboriginal communities to ensure alignment with Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Indigenous Data Governance principles.

Fostering culture, leadership and capability

To be able to fully realise the potential of data, government staff need to be data literate, and have skills and capabilities to leverage data assets to provide better outcomes for citizens. To this end, the data strategy outlines actions to create a data-driven culture within NSW government.

The NSW government has already established a Data Leadership Group, which will focus on collaboration and oversee the increased use and sharing of data for decision making. Various government departments and agencies have also appointed a Chief Data Officer to develop data roadmaps for their respective department/agency to align with the NSW Data Strategy.

Creating a connected government

The NSW digital strategy, Beyond Digital, aims to put customers at the centre and to become the world’s most customer-centric government by 2030. This requires a connected government that fully leverages valuable data assets to derive actionable insights and then efficiently share its data and insights across its departments and agencies to enable decision making.

The NSW Data Strategy complements the government’s digital strategy and outlines a collaborative, coordinated and safe approach to using and sharing data across government. The strategy puts data at the centre of government decision making to provide better outcomes for its citizens.