Australian Digital Council: ministers meet to discuss data sharing and service delivery

By Stephen Easton

Friday September 14, 2018

Ministers from across the federation came together this morning for the first meeting of the new Australian Digital Council to talk turkey about sharing data between governments and working together to improve service delivery using digital technology.

The meeting in Sydney this morning was focused on “improving data sharing between governments to boost economic growth and drive innovation, while also helping to inform better decision-making” in particular, according to a statement from Michael Keenan, the federal Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation.

The first major data-sharing initiative the council discussed today is all about the “longitudinal outcomes for children who spend time in out-of-home care” by combining the records of state child protection bureaucracies with federal data on employment outcomes. Keenan’s statement said:

“State and Territory governments hold vast amounts of data about individuals who have spent time in care, but have limited visibility about their employment outcomes after they turn 18.

“Data held by the Federal Government relating to job seeker payments can be overlaid with the State data to provide significant insights into the lives of these individuals. Those insights can then be used to shape effective policy settings that enable earlier intervention and more targeted service delivery to deliver better outcomes.

“Ministers have already agreed to undertake similar research into the barriers that inhibit people with disabilities from accessing government services.”

States and territories could choose to be covered by the upcoming federal Data Sharing and Release Act, or they could use it as a template to develop their own complementary legislation, according to the Digital Transformation Minister.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened the proceedings and Keenan chaired the meeting, which was attended by ministers from every state and territory. The Australian Digital Council will hold its second meeting in early 2019.

“It’s exciting to see our federation in action with the Commonwealth, states and territories all agreeing to put our political differences aside and work together to improve the lives of those that we represent,” Morrison said in the statement.

“Through greater collaboration, we can simplify services, cut red tape and reduce the compliance burden on small and medium sized businesses when interacting with governments.”

The Digital Transformation Minister said collaboration could help all governments cut the cost of rolling out new digital apps, online services and other technological fixes to simplify all the various interactions with state or federal agencies.

“The digital revolution the world is currently undergoing presents governments with enormous opportunities to significantly improve the services we deliver, ensuring they’re fit for purpose, simple, convenient and cost effective,” Keenan said.

“Until now though, jurisdictions have been going it alone on digital projects, or keeping their data under lock and key. By committing to a strong agenda of collaboration and cooperation, we can learn from each other’s experiences and pool our resources to develop systems that can be rolled-out across the country, avoiding costly duplication and accelerating the benefits for citizens and business.”

He notes digital identity verification is one area where cross-government collaboration is important. The federal government is working on its solution and offering states and territories the choice of adopting it for their own services, or developing their own systems that can be accredited for use in transactions with Commonwealth agencies.

Digital driver’s licences are also being developed in several jurisdictions, and quite often governments prefer to go it alone on such projects. But if they worked together more often, they could realise “tremendous opportunities to pool expertise and resources, helping to fast track those projects, reduce development costs and deliver a more consistent experience for people across the country” according to the federal minister’s statement.

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