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NSW Government data to be ‘open by default’

by Staff Writers •
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The government open data movement began in 2009 with the NSW Government’s online release of selected datasets. NSW Minister for Finance and Services Andrew Constance today launched his Government’s Open Data Policy, which has followed the Federal Government in taking an “open by default” approach to the release of public sector datasets. 

“Open data supports the open government principles of transparency, participation, collaboration and innovation that are identified as priorities in the NSW Government ICT Strategy,” states the NSW Government Open Data Policy.

The Policy, which applies to all NSW agencies, statutory bodies and shared services providers, aims to “make explicit the NSW Government’s commitment to open data” and provides guidance on open data priorities, standards for data quality and timeliness, and security considerations.

It also promotes an open by default approach where “agencies start from a position of data openness, with the prerogative in favour of data release, unless there is a specific, overriding reason for data not to be released”.

Constance discussed the benefits of an open data approach for better mobility practices and improved service delivery at the Open Data Forum in Sydney.

“We want to transform government through IT over the next ten years by better utilising mobile apps and social media, improving the way we interact with customers,” he said.

“We have engaged with the community, industry and the research sector to deliver a policy that drives transparency, accountability and better service delivery to the people of NSW.

“Importantly, it will support the development of new apps using government data to improve access to services like public transport's real-time updates.”

Constance also announced that the NSW Government is “piloting federation with the Commonwealth, Queensland and South Australian data portals, enabling easy access to their datasets from”.

This cross-jurisdictional approach provides an indication of future open data growth areas. Benefits of this approach include the identification of common issues and the potential for combined innovation and solutions across different public sector departments.

Currently the Federal, NSW, Queensland, South Australian, Victorian and ACT governments all operate separate open data portals. The Tasmanian and Western Australian governments only release data relating to land information, and the Northern Territory Government has yet to launch a public sector data directory.

Addressing the Forum following the Minister, the NSW Director-General for Finance and Services and whole-of-government CIO, Laurie Glanfield told the audience of approximately 200 that NSW had formally adopted the use of AusGoal (the Australian Government’s Open Access and Licensing Framework) to provide guidance and support in the management and licensing arrangements for the approximately 300 data sets now on the Data.NSW portal.

Glanfield also used the opportunity to announce that the Data.NSW portal had been officially promoted to a full production website from its beta version. 

Australian Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan AO, provided the Forum’s keynote address on the International Open Government Partnership (OGP).

He said that while Australia had not yet joined, he felt it was “inevitable that it would do so”. The OGP was formed in July 2011 and launched in September 2011 by the USA and Brazil. 61 countries including the USA, the UK and Canada are currently members, with another five expected to join.  Non-OGP countries include Germany, France, New Zealand and China. 

There were a number of reasons that Australia had not yet joined, said McMillan, including the fact that in the absence of ‘strong, relentless bureaucratic pressure’ membership of the OGP was not making it to the top of the political agenda, despite a May 2012 Labor commitment that Australia would become a member.

One of the obligations of being a member of the OGP was the creation of a Country Action Plan. The NSW government’s Open Data Policy in effect creates a state level action plan, according to McMillan. He also observed that while the Federal Government had been previously highly active on Open Government, particularly in 2009-10 and 2010-11, there has been a reduced level of activity since. The Federal Government launched its open data site in 2011. NSW is now the third Australian jurisdiction to have a dedicated open data policy, along with the Federal Government’s Principles on open public sector information, released in May 2011, and the Victorian Government’s DataVic Access Policy, launched in August 2012.

The Queensland Government has hinted at the possible development of a policy in its ICT Strategy 2013-17 action plan, which flags the launch of an open data program plan and blueprint by March 2014 to provide a coherent approach to “the sharing and release of data and information”, as well as the release of open data strategies by individual departments and statutory authorities by December 2013 which map ownership of datasets and their schedule for release. Premier Newman is understood to be determined to make Queensland the most open and “digitally-interactive state in Australia”.

In NSW, the apps4nsw program has been a major part of leveraging open data to promote mobile service delivery through partnerships between Government agencies and private sector developers. An online competition is currently seeking expressions of interest (EOI) regarding possible mobile applications based on data from various Government agencies.

“Judges from each agency will determine the winning EOI for their challenge and discuss the pathway of developing their product (app),” according to the competition overview.

“By 28 February 2014, the product (app) will be accepted by the agency and ready to [be] launched in the market.”

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For more information, please contact the Editor (02) 9955 9896.

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