The Office of the National Data Commissioner (ONDC) has published a discussion paper outlining major public data sector reforms, with the aim of modernising Australia’s fractured public data sharing ecosystem.

Announced by Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert on Tuesday, the Better Services, Better Decisions, Better Government paper breaks down the Coalition’s first major step toward landmark data reforms that will streamline the way the Australian Government will share access to public data.

The discussion paper outlines a new approach to data management that will see the Morrison Government improve access to information and services across multiple sectors with the same information.

Focusing on a 2016 data availability Productivity Commission assessing the way in which data and services are made available to Australians, the paper highlights the broad spectrum of data collected by the Australian Government — which includes immigration, meteorological, and administrative data — and the inefficient manner in which it is currently distributed.

Australians seeking to claim Medicare rebates, renew passport details, or lodge tax returns are currently obligated to use a variety of different Government services.

The current Australian Government data ecosystem, according to the Productivity Commission, is “wasting time” and stifling innovation.

Inconsistent practices and a fractured approach to public sector data sharing restricts the ability of Australians to perform basic administrative tasks such as updating address details.

Speaking with the Australian Financial Review, Government Services Minister Stuart Robert emphasised the importance of creating a single platform that provides users with the ability to access all relevant Government services in one place:

“My department alone has six different apps … I'd love it if citizens could tell us once their addresses and their date of birth.”

Australians currently battle through up to 30 different services, logins, and platforms in order to access various parts of the government. Public data sharing and access reform efforts aim to establish a single entrance point that allows users to access all government services in one place — bringing the Australian Government up to speed with international data sharing standards.

A new legislative framework, consisting of an Independent National Data Commissioner, a National Advisory Council, and Data Sharing and Release legislation, represents the first step forward in reforming the Australian national data system.

In addition to streamlining the everyday interaction between Australians and government services, the ONDC paper presents medical data sharing as a potential benefit of data reform.

In an initiative executed by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and clinical researchers, government data interoperability efforts resulted in significant developments in the treatment of cardiovascular disease — demonstrating the value of a modern approach to public data management.

Focusing on the public benefits of data sharing, the Discussion Paper will present details on transparency, privacy mechanisms, and regulatory approach.

Subsequent to the Discussion Paper consultation, the ONDC will launch a series of roundtables throughout September and October, working toward a Q1 2020 draft legislation that will be refined through eight weeks of public consultation.

The closing date for submissions is 5pm, 15 October 2019.