Thursday, December 03, 2015

New data report signals a major shift in data thinking in the senior Australian public service

While successive Australian governments have touted 'evidence-based policy', a significant ongoing challenge within Australia's public service has been generating or accessing the right data at the right time - particularly across agencies - for actually testing policy assumptions and following a more agile policy development process.

I've personally witnessed the challenges within agencies of being able to locate useful and usable data for program design and delivery assessment, and the mechanics for sharing data between agencies, requiring formal agreements and long discovery and lead-times.

One of the more signficant side-effects of the open data revolution has been to highlight to agencies how little they know about the data they already collect and hold, who owns it (agency or external parties) and how hard it can be to share productively between agencies, let alone with the public.

A significant initiative this year was the commissioning of an internal data report by the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, named the Public Sector Data Management report.

This report was designed to help the Australian Public Service (APS) understand its internal data landscape and recommend steps that could be taken to improve how data is generated, managed, discovered, shared and therefore used in policy and program development and evaluation.

Put simply, if the APS can get its approach on data right, suddenly it would become far clearly to both internal and external stakeholders how effective various government programs were, and clarify policy gaps and opportunities.

This internal report, now released publicly under Creative Commons licensing, offers a glimpse into how effectively data has been used in the APS, and recommends a strong series of measures to strengthen data collection, sharing and use.

If anything speaks to the commitment within the APS to use and share data more effectively, this report does. It's worth not only a read, but a close study.

The Public Sector Data Management report is now available online via the blog at

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