07.11.2017

Conference catch-up: data integration in the public sector


Discussions at Friday’s short conference about “unlocking the value of Australia’s public data” centred on the potential for integrated data to help solve complex policy problems, as well as the challenges this presents government agencies, companies and other organisations.

Public servants and other interested parties flocked to the event, which was jointly hosted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Institute of Public Administration Australia (ACT Division), and anyone who didn’t make it can now view the whole event on four separate videos at their leisure.

Data61 chief executive Adrian Turner opened the seminar with a slick presentation on technological megatrends, cutting edge research and emerging best practice.

Adrian Turner.

He made some interesting points about the advantages of “federated” data analytics platforms, which are an emerging alternative to building increasingly large datasets. Turner said that if this can be achieved it is generally better than having a centralised data repository, on balance, and “it’s an easier sell” to the public, privacy-wise.

The article Confidential Computing – Insights from data without seeing the data on the Data61 website explains the concept:

“More data means better insights for decision making. However, providing data to and obtaining data from other organisations can introduce security, regulatory, ethics and reputational risks.

“Traditional methods of solving these challenges involve anonymising and restricting access to data but this can significantly reduce the value and insights that could be derived. In addition, issues of trust and the nature of security obligations between different organisations can make it difficult for organisations to collaborate and share critical information.”

Next up was the first of two panel discussions chaired by Alison Larkins, a deputy secretary in the Department of Health.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s deputy director Matthew Jones joined Grattan Institute CEO John Daley and two social scientists, Janeen Baxter and Nicholas Biddle, to talk about how the potential for “untangling complex policy problems” with data integration can be realised more often.

The second panel discussed “the challenges that data integration brings” and spent considerable time discussing public sector cultural issues like risk aversion, ownership issues and willful blindness, but also covered privacy issues to some extent.

Panel members included the Productivity Commission’s principal research advisor Jenny Gordon, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s chief economist Mark Cully, Telstra’s Canberra-based head of “global foresight” Jack Dan and Timothy Pilgrim, wearing “two hats” as the federal commissioner for both privacy and freedom-of-information.

And finally, as covered by The Mandarin yesterday, Australian Statistician David Kalisch took the stage to sum up what he took away from the day’s proceedings.

More photos from the event are available from the IPAA ACT website.

Images: RLDI/IPAA ACT, videos produced by contentgroup for IPAA ACT.