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Federal government readying itself for increased data analytics activity

by Staff Writers •
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The Federal Government will be ready if any of the National Commission of Audit’s recommendations on data analytics are adopted. It has released of the draft ‘Responsible Data Analytics (RDA)’ document, intended as an appendix to the ‘APS Better Practice Guide for Big Data’ that was issued in April 2014.

The RDA document seeks to satisfy “the need to safeguard privacy concerns,” as outlined in the Audit. “Public sector agencies need to ensure that they maintain trust and operate within acceptable bounds as they increase their use of new technologies such as data analytics,” according to the guide.

Recommendation 61 of the Audit states: “There is untapped potential to use anonymised data and new data analytic techniques to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government. The Commission recommends that the Government… rapidly improve the use of data in policy development, service delivery and fraud reduction…”

The Audit goes on to recommend agencies publish greater volumes of anonymised administrative data, and prioritise “several ‘big data’ projects”. The Government should also establish “a data strategy to be prepared by the Australian Statistician on the quality, timeliness and availability of data that would be suitable for public release,” according to the Audit.  

The draft RDA guide, on which the Government has invited public input, provides straightforward guidelines for agencies, analytics practitioners and decision makers.

Agencies are asked to “identify and apply relevant ethical guidelines,” and to reflect the values of “the administrative law system, [including]: Lawfulness; Fairness; Rationality; Openness and Transparency; [and] Efficiency.” 

Practitioners of analytics are reminded to “apply scholarly and scientific rigour, [and] ensure appropriate methods are used to achieve research objectives, [as well as ensuring that] results are peer reviewed where relevant.” 

Decision makers are asked to “report research responsibly, ensure the results and conclusions derived from data are presented in a balanced, accurate and objective manner, including null findings.”

Furthermore, they should “declare conflicts of interest [and] ensure appropriate authorities are in place to make a decision or to delegate decision making power to an expert system.”

Feedback can be directed to ictpolicy@finance.gov.au by 11 July 2014.

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