by Shahida Sweeney

Western Australia unlocks potential of open data

Mar 03, 20153 mins

Western Australia is finalising the blueprint for open government, together with a focus on being “open by default” and streamlining access to untapped data and services.

The administration’s open data roadmap, being developed by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, builds on widespread feedback around the storage, access and management of data.

This feedback, being finalised 6th March, lays the groundwork for a better-integrated open data policy. This reform makes it easier for citizens, industries and research bodies to access information in a readily-accessible, transparent and cost-effective environment.

Under the proposed new regime, agencies are encouraged to be “open by default.” This reform favours the new release of open data sets, unless this access is impacted by privacy, security or other policy considerations.

Building on GIS

As Australia’s mining and resources powerhouse, Western Australia has already built its geographical information systems (GIS) and spatial capability under the auspices of Landgate.

When fully operational, a new open data initiative will be managed by Landgate. A dedicated WA Data Portal, now being developed, offers the gateway to access more targeted information. A centralised dataset catalogue is also being built, offering a more consistent look and feel to information and services.

In an earlier discussion paper, the department said that data is an important strategic asset for governments. “Opening access to data, together with approaches to unlocking restrictions surrounding its use, is a growing trend nationally and internationally.”

Open data streamlines service delivery, and lays the foundations for evidence-based policy decisions. “Opening access to data supports public sector efficiencies and savings,” the department said.

Reducing duplication

Better access to information reduces duplication, streamlines processes, and helps allocate services where needed, at a substantially reduced cost. Previously, only limited amount of data was being released by the WA government. This access was often haphazard, and being shared in ways that was not easily-accessible or useable, the department said.

This information gap meant data was an underutilised resource and marked by “a significant missed opportunity,” the department said.

Agencies routinely collect and manage data during day-to-day operations. Opening access to this untapped data unlocks opportunities for the public sector, as well as businesses, research bodies, and the community.

Delivering online and mobile services

The trend toward open government is marked by a growing demand for flexible and high-quality online and mobile services. The department said new and better uses of existing assets such as data are important now more so than ever.

New data will be available at no cost to users, where possible. This access improves the potential for reuse. But agencies may consider a reasonable charge, where there are collection or maintenance costs, or if the data holds commercial value.

This data will need to be published in industry-standard formats, making it easy to use, transform and reuse. This includes publishing data as collected at the source, with a high level of granularity, and not in aggregate or modified forms.

WA’s draft discussion paper is available at the DPamp;C web site.

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