STATISTICAL INFRASTRUCTURE INITIATIVES
The Commonwealth data policy landscape has shifted since the consultation took place, with the release of the Public Sector Data Management Report and the Australian Government Public Data Policy Statement in December 2015. The policy acknowledges data collected by Australian government entities as a strategic national resource and recognises the importance of effectively managing and sharing data. The opportunities presented in this publication demonstrate that government agencies are already responding to this statement.
The objectives of ESI align strongly with a range of initiatives underway at the Commonwealth and state/territory level. For instance, the ABS is currently implementing a wide reaching transformation program over five years to modernise ABS infrastructure, systems and processes used to produce official statistics. Similarly, the Department of Human Services is transforming Australia’s welfare payments system, which will position the department to meet future policy needs of government.
Presented below are some case studies highlighting initiatives underway to improve the effectiveness of statistical infrastructure to support the production and use of official statistics in Australia.
INITIATIVES ALREADY UNDERWAY
The following case studies provide examples of initiatives already underway in Australia to address various statistical infrastructure barriers or progress opportunities. It should be noted that there two case studies related to one particular barrier: Overcoming difficulty accessing, sharing and integrating data. However, the two case studies highlight the many different aspects of this barrier and the scope of issues that need addressing.
Case Study 1: Overcoming difficulty accessing, sharing and integrating data
New South Wales Data Sharing Legislation
Legislation is infrastructure that provides and regulates the authorising environment and controls to support the organisation and operation of the statistical system.
In 2015, the New South Wales government passed the Data Sharing (Government Sector) Act 2015 (NSW). The Act addresses cultural barriers that previously impeded data sharing, promotes management and use of public sector data, and facilitates government sector data sharing with the NSW Data Analytics Centre (and other NSW government agencies).
The Data Sharing (Government Sector) Act 2015 (NSW) also helps overcome any potential confusion about the relationship between data sharing and privacy legislation. All data sharing is still undertaken under the umbrella of the NSW privacy legislation framework: the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW).
Case Study 2: Overcoming difficulty accessing, sharing and integrating
Multi-Agency Data Integration Project
The Multi-Agency Data Integration Project involves two statistical infrastructure elements: the development of an innovative linking method and a pathway to streamline the linkage and use of nationally important datasets.
The purpose of the project is to create an enduring, linked, publically accessible research dataset, which is on hand to help government agencies and researchers respond to nationally important policy and service delivery questions. This project has been made possible through a partnership between five Commonwealth agencies – The Australian Taxation Office, Department of Health, Department of Human Services, Department of Social Services and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The project developed a ground breaking linking method which involved using established linking methodologies in an innovative and new way to provide robust linkages between four nationally important Commonwealth datasets. The method is proving successful and aims to provide a foundational, enduring research dataset to which other data could be added, including the addition of information longitudinally.
The project has also been successful in breaking down barriers to data sharing in order to maximise the use of Commonwealth data for public benefit. The Commonwealth agencies are working together to streamline processes and reduce red tape to ensure their public data is accessible. The Multi-Agency Data Integration Project is an exemplar for responding to demand for greater access to Commonwealth data for policy and research purposes, moving away from the current inefficient project-by-project, create and destroy approach. It also provides a test case for developing robust and workable data access arrangements more broadly.
Case Study 3: Synchronising investment in new infrastructure
ABS Address Register
Registers provide a common list of units in a population for statistical producers.
The Geocoded National Address File (G-NAF) is the most comprehensive database of all physical addresses in Australia. G-NAF is maintained by PSMA Australia. The ABS saw the opportunity to build upon G-NAF to develop a piece of statistical infrastructure for use in the Census of Population and Housing and other statistical collections.
Using G-NAF as a base, the ABS canvassed 92% of addresses in Australia to create the ABS Address Register, which will facilitate more effective sample design for the collection of ABS population data, and simplify the field activities undertaken in many statistical collections.
In collaboration with PSMA Australia, the ABS is preparing to share its address observations made during the canvassing exercise to the G-NAF to broaden its usability for statistical purposes and in turn promote greater coherence in datasets created from it. This will enable wider access to the additional value-added data from the ABS's field canvassing and desktop canvassing activities, quality assurance processes, and ongoing maintenance procedures.
To date, ABS has also made arrangements to share address canvassing data with the Department of Communications, to assist with a major address data project; and with Geoscience Australia, to improve their National Exposure Information System (NEXIS) emergency response system.