Minister names members of new National Data Advisory Council

By Stephen Easton

Wednesday March 27, 2019

The government has announced the appointment of a National Data Advisory Council comprised of six independent experts and three government representatives who will support the office of the National Data Commissioner.

The recently created office is currently occupied by interim commissioner Deborah Anton (pictured). The members of the panel were announced this morning by the Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation, Michael Keenan, and are meeting for the first time in Sydney today.

Keenan listed the members and a short description of what he believes they bring to the table:

  • Economist Nicholas Biddle, an associate professor at the Australian National University, chosen on the basis that he is “a strong user of integrated public data, including to deliver economic and social benefits to Australia’s Indigenous population”.
  • Ellen Broad, former head of policy at the United Kingdom’s Open Data Institute, chosen as “an independent consultant in open data, data sharing and artificial intelligence ethics”.
  • Paul McCarney, the co-founder of industry peak body Data Governance Australia, picked because he has “more than 20 years’ experience in data, technology and digital business”.
  • Joshua Meltzer, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. who got in on the strength of his research into “the significance of the internet and cross-border data flows for international trade”.
  • Lauren Solomon, chief executive of the Consumer Policy Research Centre, to bring the view of “an independent, non-profit, consumer research organisation”.
  • Fiona Stanley, the distinguished research professor of paediatrics and child health at the University of Western Australia, who brings for a perspective on the value of data as an epidemiologist.

The government members of the council are Australian privacy commissioner Angelene Falk, chief scientist Alan Finkel and the head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, David Kalisch.

L-R: Joshua Meltzer, Lauren Soloman, Nicholas Biddle, Alan Finkel, Deborah Anton, Michael Keenan, Paul McCarney, Angelene Falk, David Kalisch.

The council “will help to guide the National Data Commissioner on issues such as ethical data usage, social licence building and technical best practice” as new rules are put in place to enable more data sharing and release, and also codify stronger consumer rights.

“Data held by Government is a hugely valuable national resource that, when used correctly, can drive innovation and economic growth, help to better inform public policy and deliver breakthroughs for researchers and scientists,” Keenan said.

“But maintaining public trust is crucial if we want to unlock the full potential that our data holds. That is why I’m pleased to have been able to appoint a council that represents the full range of community views, including those of privacy advocates, researchers and industry.”

The minister noted the council was established on the recommendation of the Productivity Commission’s 2017 report on data sharing and release. He said work towards a new Data Sharing and Release Act — which would remove a lot of restrictions on government agencies sharing data but also “enshrine the principles of privacy and security” — was “well advanced” at this point.

“Last week, we also released a new Sharing Data Safely package that adopts an internationally-recognised data sharing and protection framework to guide agencies on how to best manage the data they hold,” he added.


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