Public Sector Data Management

Nick Newhouse | 03 Dec 2015

In April 2015, the Secretary of Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), Michael Thawley, commissioned an in-house study into how public sector data can be better used to achieve efficiencies for government, enable better service delivery and inform policy development, and be used by the private sector to innovate and create new products and business models.

Secretaries of PM&C, the Department of Finance and the then Department of Communications oversaw the study, with guidance from an inter-agency Steering Committee.

The study was an internal study focusing on Australian Public Service (APS) practices with the aim of identifying current status and strategies for improving the use of and access to data.

Dr Heather Smith, Deputy Secretary of Projects at PM&C, led the study with a small team comprising representatives from PM&C, the then Department of Communications, the Department of Finance, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Taxation Office.

Australia’s capacity to remain competitive in the global digital economy depends on how well we can harness the value of public data. Publishing, linking and sharing public data can create opportunities that neither Government nor business can currently envisage.

The study found that there are pockets of excellence across the APS, with some agencies actively working on projects that focus on a richer analysis of linked data. However, this approach is fragmented and is subject to a number of barriers, both perceived and real. These include cultural and legislative barriers, and a data analytics skills and capability shortage across the APS.

To ensure that the APS makes the most of the opportunities that public data has to offer, the report established a roadmap of actions to address identified barriers and improve public data-related practices across the APS. The roadmap and its actions are split into an initial period to build confidence and momentum across the APS, and a longer term set of initiatives to systematise the use, publishing and sharing of public data. PM&C is working with agencies to progress these actions.

The APS will take a careful and phased approach to implementing this roadmap. Doing so will ensure that any risks, governance issues and other considerations can be dealt with as they arise. The highest standards of security and privacy will be upheld.

The final report is available on the PM&C website at