Why should we care about Data Sharing?

Nadine Hamilton – Principal Consultant, Canberra

Data Sharing


There are many reasons that organisations, both public and private should be sharing data, not the least is the significant potential it offers for social and economic benefits through better delivery of services, better and more informed decision making or policy setting, and to support research into current and emerging social, economic and environmental issues. 

The value of data and the insights that it holds for so many different interested parties, cannot be underestimated. 

The requirement to access and share data are increasing, but how do you balance these interests whilst maintaining public trust and confidence in the systems? 

From a public sector perspective, the Australian Government is developing the Data Sharing and Release Act (DS&R Act) to address some of these concerns.   

The overall aim of the DS&R Act will be to: 

  • safeguard data sharing and release in a consistent and appropriate way 
  • enhance the integrity of the data system 
  • build trust in use of public data 
  • establish institutional arrangements, and 
  • promote better sharing of public sector data. 

Read more about what this legislation is trying to achieve here. 

Common challenges for sharing data 

In the 2017 Data Availability and Use Report, the Productivity Commission found: 

  • “Existing data sharing arrangements across the public service are complex and hinder the use of data.  Barriers to greater sharing of data within government include: 
  • A dense web of legislative requirements which lack consistency 
  • A culture of risk aversion, leading to overly cautious legislative interpretation and approval process complexity, and 
  • Lack of a whole-of-government approach.”1 

On top of these challenges, most organisations are also battling with: 

  • Data siloes – they have lots of data, but it is fragmented and more often than not, held in isolation. 
  • Concerns around privacy of information and the potential for misuse.  
  • Risk aversion, with daily news of high-profile data breaches and stories of data shared with good intention, but poorly managed.  

 Public Sector Data Sharing in action 

Locally, the Australian Federal Government has introduced the Data Integration Partnership for Australia (DIPA) program to maximise the use and value of the Government’s data assets. Through data integration and analysis, new insights into important and complex policy questions will now be available. 

The DIPA will: 

  • improve our technical data infrastructure and data integration capabilities 
  • preserve the privacy of individuals and ensure the security of sensitive data 
  • improve our data assets in important areas such as health, education and social welfare 
  • maximise the use of these assets through data integration and analysis. 

This is a fantastic opportunity for business to leverage a wealth of public data held by government! 

 Making it work 

If you are considering sharing your data but face some or all of these challenges, don’t believe it’s too hard, it can be done!  Here are some key principles to consider: 

  • Have clear governance and release processes to assess risk and manage process 
  • For example, Utilise the Five-Safes framework – each of the elements of this framework provide guidance on managing the risks of sharing data.  This framework allows data custodians to place appropriate controls, not just on the data itself, but on the manner in which data is accessed. 
  • Safe data: can the data disclose identity? 
  • Safe people: can the users of the data be trusted? 
  • Safe setting: does the access environment prevent unauthorised use? 
  • Safe outputs: are the project results likely to disclose identity? 
  • Safe project: is the purpose of use appropriate?  
  • Organise and present the data in a useful way – make it easier for authorised external users to access and utilise the data.   
  • Share success stories – these build buy-in and confidence in your procedures, breaks down barriers and reduces the concerns raised previously.   

Data sharing will continue to be high on many organisations agendas with significant investments to maximise the use and value of their data assets. If you’d like to find out more about how Altis is assisting public and private sector organisations manage, leverage and share their data – get in touch at connect@altis.com.au. 

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