1345.4 - SA Stats, Oct 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/10/2010   
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There is a breadth of untapped information that is generated and held across all levels of government - this information is a rich statistical data source. Government organisations are increasingly interested in sharing data and making it available for public use to help build a comprehensive and coherent statistical picture of the economy, society and the environment. Data sharing allows maximum use of data for statistical purposes, thus enhancing the decision-making capability of governments and communities. It is an important ingredient for supporting evidence-based policy and decision-making.

Data sharing has been taking place for many years across governments, research bodies, business and other bodies, assisting informed decision-making, research and discussion within governments and the wider community. Government agencies recognise the costs associated with data collection and use. By reusing existing information for statistical purposes, increased value and use of the information can be made to support government policy/program development, implementation and review and respondent burden can be minimised.

This article provides a brief overview of 'A Good Practice Guide to Sharing Your Data with Others', developed by the National Statistical Service (NSS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and released in November 2009. The guide provides a non-technical introduction to data sharing and describes the key concepts and components of data sharing arrangements and agreements.

The South Australian Perspective

South Australian Government policy states that, subject to prudent privacy and security measures, Government data must be made available to the maximum extent that is legally and economically possible.(Data and Information Availability).

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is actively working with the South Australian Government to pursue this policy. For further information on data sharing developments in South Australia, please contact James Inglis on (08) 8237 7405 or by email at james.inglis@abs.gov.au .

Benefits of data sharing

The concept of sharing data across agencies and jurisdictions is supported by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). Data sharing makes sense because it can:

  • provide a more cost-effective solution when finding, using or exposing data
  • improve the usefulness of available data sources and datasets to data producers and other users
  • improve decision-making, policy and business outcomes for Australians due to the increased availability of information
  • improve relationships between data custodians, providers and users through the identification of common interests and access to information
  • maximise the awareness and use of existing data

What does data sharing look like?

Data sharing can take many forms, from sharing metadata (information about data), to sharing aggregate data, to sharing survey or unit record data or a complete administrative dataset. It can be one-way, two-way, or involve multiple parties or distribution into the public domain.

For example, in South Australia the Department of Trade and Economic Development has developed a statistical data enquiry tool, EasyData, to simplify the gathering of up-to-date economic, social and environmental indicators. EasyData is an example of the benefits of data sharing to bring together a range of data sources in a single location to understand and analyse various issues.

Another example of data sharing is the website data.australia.gov.au. Currently in beta stage, this site provides access to a range of Australian government datasets from many different agencies. Other state/territory jurisdictions, including South Australia, are currently assessing the creation of similar sites for the release of state government data and information.

Data sharing agreements

Data sharing arrangements should be supported by a data sharing agreement that documents the relationship between parties, which data components and elements are to be shared, and how the data may be used.

The key components and elements of data sharing agreements are:
  • Aims and purpose
  • Data definition
  • Legal restrictions
  • Governance
  • Access issues
  • Data quality
  • Data management
  • Costs

More information on data sharing agreements can be obtained from A Good Practice Guide to Sharing Your Data with Others.

Further Information

For more about Data and Metadata Management, see the Keeping your data in good shape, and accompanying case studies.

For more about Data Quality, see the ABS Data Quality Framework (ABS cat. no. 1520.0).

For more about Creative Commons, see www.creativecommons.org.au

For more about the Government Information Licensing Framework, see www.gilf.gov.au

For more information about the National Government Information Sharing Strategy, see, www.finance.gov.au/publications/national-government-information-sharing-strategy/