Public Sector Data Management

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


Craig (not verified) 3 December 2015


Great to see these activities taking place.

Note that the apparent definition of linked data used by the APS appears to be different to the global definition.

I appreciate the language of open data is still new to the senior public service, however it is definitely worth standardising on the meaning of terms to ensure studies such as this are globally comparable.

Refer to Linked Data as it is defined by the W3C and in Webopedia and Wikipedia

I also noted that the report is out-of-date regarding the data policy landscape, with many of the functions formerly with Finance, AGs and Communication now centralised in PM&C (a good step). For people to understand the context of the report, placing a timeframe on when it was completed vs when it was released, and how the landscape has changed between these dates, would be valuable.

The report evidenced a need for education on data throughout the APS. It would be good to see resources put behind this to support this process.



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