Government prepares for open data overhaul

DPMC’s Public Data Branch partners with Data61 to revamp Data.gov.au portal

The government is preparing for a major overhaul of its open data portal, Data.gov.au.

The current Data.gov.au site is based on the open source CKAN data portal software. The site launched in 2013.

The Data Infrastructure and Government Engagement (DIGE) team within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s (DPMC) Public Data Branch has partnered with the CSIRO’s Data61 for the overhaul. The Public Data Branch is a product of a 2015 fusion of the Department of Finance’s open data team, the Data Policy Branch and the Department of Communication’s Digital Government Strategy.

Data61 is planning to release a first prototype of the new portal later this year. The initial prototype is expected to offer improved searching across multiple data repositories. Further prototypes will be released in 2017 “focussed on data publishing, data quality, better spatial publishing, and integration” according to a blog entry by the DPMC’s Toby Bellwood.

Under the government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda Data61 has been tasked with employing “data analytics to connect disparate government datasets and publicly release them on open data platforms”.

The availability and use of public and private data by individuals and organisations is currently the subject of a Productivity Commission inquiry. A draft report of the inquiry is expected in November, ahead of a final report in March 2017.

The 15-year Australian Infrastructure Plan, released in February, called for all Australian governments to adopt open data policies and work to ensure that software developers are able to get their hands on real-time data relating to the operation and performance of public transport networks.

Under a policy statement authorised last year, data held by the federal government is a “strategic national resource”.

The policy committed the government to an approach of open by default for non-sensitive data sets and to collaborating with researchers and the private sector to expand the use of government-collected data.

The policy states that where possible, the government will make data available through easy-to-use APIs. High value data sets will be made available for use “in a manner that is enduring and frequently updated using high quality standards”.

The DPMC recently launched its strategy to boost the data analytics capabilities of the public service, based on a recommendation in the 2015 Public Sector Data Management Report. The four-pillared strategy includes a number of measures to boost both access to specialist skills and general data literacy within the public sector.

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