The Australian government holds vast amounts of public sector data that it collects from individuals and businesses, or generates through administrative functions of government agencies. This data has significant potential to inform policy development, evaluate programs, contribute to economic growth, and support innovation, for the benefit of all Australians.
Acknowledging the value of public sector data, and the need use it efficiently and with appropriate safeguards, the Australian government established the Office of the National Data Commissioner (ONDC) in July 2018. The ONDC is responsible for implementing a data sharing framework that improves access to and re-use of public sector data, while maintaining data privacy and security. In this context, data sharing is the provision of access to data in a controlled manner. Data release means providing open access to data, i.e. making it publicly available for anyone to use.
The potential of public sector data can be realised in a number of ways. Data sharing allows re-use of existing data to deliver public benefit and the creation of new datasets to provide rich insights about communities, families, industry, the environment and the economy. However, data sharing must be managed carefully and safely to ensure the public trusts how Australian government agencies handle the data they hold.
This guide has been written to assist agencies holding Australian government data (data custodians) to safely and effectively share the data they are responsible for by using five data sharing principles (the Principles).
Where there is a clear public benefit, data custodians may seek to share data in a controlled manner with a range of users, such as government agencies, the academic research community and, in some cases, the private sector.
This guide has been structured to assist data custodians to consider the appropriate safeguards to apply before sharing government data, and to promote more flexible, principle-driven data access arrangements.
Part 1 contains information and questions for data custodians to consider prior to sharing data, such as the data sharing maturity of an organisation and their approach to managing risk. Part 2 explains each of the Principles in a practical order, beginning with the project assessment. It provides examples of how each principle operates and poses questions to help data custodians apply them. Part 3 includes further guidance on how to manage data sharing agreements once they are in place.
The aim of this guide is to provide an introduction to the Principles. The Principles are designed to enable safe and appropriate data sharing. A data custodian will need to be flexible in applying the Principles by taking into account the context in which the agency intends to share data, and may need to consider other questions than those in this guide.