Date:
26 August 2022
Author:
Emil Jeyaratnam

Government agencies are increasingly recognising the value of their data and treating data as assets. The importance of open data and the efficiencies and cost savings that can come from publishing and sharing data is now well understood by agencies across jurisdictions. 

But it takes considerable time, effort and skilled resources to create, manage and publish data, which can be challenging for agencies. As a result, the actions needed to fully realise the potential of government data is often put in the “too hard” basket.

Government bodies across jurisdictions have recognised the difficulties agencies have in managing, using and sharing their data assets, and have created resources and support networks to help data practitioners and relevant staff.

In this Open Data Insights, we focus on two important toolkits. The Australian Government’s Open Data Toolkit, and the NSW Government’s Data Governance Toolkit.

The DTA’s Open Data Toolkit

The Australian Government’s Open Data Toolkit is a great resource for government data practitioners from all jurisdictions. While it may be dated (last updated in 2018) and weighted towards the data.gov.au portal, the toolkit remains a comprehensive guide for staff and agencies wanting to publish open data.

The toolkit contains information on government’s open data policies and the benefits of opening up datasets, as well as practical guides on creating datasets, specifying metadata, and using data.gov.au.

The toolkit guides users through planning and developing their organisation's open data strategy. The process starts with an open data self-assessment guide, which asks to identify the organisation's open data ability and achievements against six categories:

  • Awareness
  • Data management
  • Creation
  • Distribution
  • Raising capabilities
  • Working across government

For each category, the guide provides a scale of 4 responses for agencies to assess against. For example, for data management, an organisation may fall into the following ranges:

  1. Individual staff use documented data management processes
  2. Data management policies and procedures are known and used organisation-wide
  3. Business processes are regularly reviewed to ensure compliance with the organisation’s data management procedures
  4. Data management across the organisation is tracked against metrics, including through continuous external benchmarking

Assessing against the 6 categories provides agencies an idea of their open data maturity and where focus is needed to fully realise the benefits of open data.

The toolkit also provides practical advice on publishing open data, including choosing datasets, creating data assets, choosing where to publish, and providing appropriate metadata. Finally, the toolkit includes a detailed user guide for publishing to the data.gov.au portal.

The NSW Data Governance Toolkit

The NSW open data portal ( data.nsw.gov.au) provides extensive and detailed guidelines for staff and agencies wanting to publish and manage their data assets. Its Data Governance Toolkit has been developed to provide guidance on creating an effective data governance program.

The ultimate goal is to create consistency across NSW government in how agencies govern their data. Effective data governance will improve how government uses and shares data. 

The toolkit is comprehensive. It contains 12 modules, from outlining the various legislative requirements agencies must comply with, to stepping through the Data Governance Model. At a high level, the model contains 4 interconnected layers of data governance:

  • Strategy and planning — Guides agencies to develop a clear strategy for their data governance aligned to their business needs and strategic objectives; it's important the strategy is focused on key problems the agency is trying to solve.
  • Organisational structures, roles and responsibilities — Ensures agencies have appropriate and aligned organisational structures to implement their strategy.
  • Organisational enablers — Strong leadership, support and advocacy from senior executives is vital to creating a successful data governance program. The toolkit recognises the challenges of changing organisational behaviour and outlines how agencies can create a collaborative, data-literate, data-driven culture where good data management practices are celebrated and rewarded.
  • Data management — The toolkit refers to 8 key data management functions required to plan, execute and operate the policies and processes specified by the data governance strategy. This layer includes data quality management, metadata management, security, and privacy, among other management considerations.

For each module the toolkit provides examples of what “good'' looks like, as well as outlining practical approaches to achieving desired outcomes. Finally, there is a Data Governance Checklist that outlines the best practices for creating an effective data governance program.

Other resources

Other government bodies also provide toolkits and resources specific to their jurisdictions. Examples include:

The importance of effective data management and appropriate processes will only grow as the volume of data collected and used by government agencies increases exponentially. The toolkits and resources outlined above provide an invaluable resource for government agencies and staff managing, using and sharing data assets.