Ex-Telstra big data boss joins public sector as govts get serious about data insights

By David Donaldson

May 26, 2017

Julian Hebden
Julian Hebden

Ex-Telstra executive Julian Hebden has been appointed to transform how the Victorian government uses data as the state’s inaugural chief data officer.

Hebden, previously head of big data at the telecom, will help establish and then run the new Centre for Data Insights, to be based in the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Apart from a brief stint in the United Kingdom’s tax agency, his previous experience is primarily in the private sector, according to his LinkedIn page.

The Department of Premier and Cabinet has recently advertised for several positions as the centre builds up its workforce.

One of the key focuses of the Centre for Data Insights will be improving how government deals with family violence, though it will develop a broad remit in helping transform the way government uses data to inform policy making and service design on issues that cut across portfolios and are of whole-of-government significance.

It will be responsible for building data analytics capability across the state government, working with existing pockets of excellence within departments and supporting a data-driven culture. The job ad for the chief data officer stated the centre will:

  • conduct data integration and analysis;
  • build capability in data analytics across the VPS;
  • contribute to improving data standards across the VPS;
  • lead a Victorian data reform agenda, including inter-departmental and cross-jurisdictional data work.

This follows the establishment of the New South Wales Data Analytics Centre within the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, itself based on the New York City Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics.

Commonwealth data agency to look at industry handouts

A key focus of the new Commonwealth initiative known as the Data Integration Partnership for Australia, announced in the Budget, would be analysing the costs and benefits of industry assistance, says Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor.

“Data analytics provides an extraordinary opportunity to support policy development and deliver real outcomes for Australians,” Taylor said.

“A central capability within the DIPA will coordinate specialised teams focused on social, industry, environmental and government efficiency policies.”

The government will invest $130.8 million in the DIPA over three years, through the Public Sector Modernisation Fund announced in the Budget. Its aim is to maximise use of the government’s vast data assets, allowing cost effective and timely insights into data that is already available.

Other areas to be analysed include identifying and preventing risk of disability in the workplace, supporting ongoing workforce participation for those with a disability, and better understanding the effects of medications to avoid adverse reactions.

The DIPA will create high-value national data assets to build longitudinal data about populations, businesses, the environment and government to inform the development and evaluation of policies and programs.

And for those worried about privacy, the government says the data “will be de-identified and analysed in controlled environments governed by strict processes and legislation.”

The DIPA’s first task, after bringing all these disparate parts of government to the same table, will be to scope how it will achieve social licence for data sharing — particularly inside the bureaucracy itself.

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