Australian Governments of all levels are becoming increasingly involved in the publication of open data. At a Commonwealth level, the Government has recently become a signatory to the international Open Government Partnership and has recently released a Public Data Policy Statement which commits the government to releasing open data.
The Federal Government has also developed a toolkit and has collected over 7,200 datasets at its portal data.gov.au. The Government is currently partnering with New York University to explore how NGOs and Australian businesses use open data to create value.
At a State level, the Victorian Government has issued a DataVic Access Policy (updated in 2015) and has continued to maintain its web portal at data.vic.gov.au.
Other States have also issued open data policies. In addition, Queensland is home to a local Node of the Open Data Institute and has produced a number of valuable resources including a number of case studies.
Local Government Open Data
To see which Australian local governments are already publishing open data, take a look at the map below. More councils will be automatically added to the map as they progressively publish data.
In Victoria, the Local Government Spatial Reference Group has conducted research into councils’ knowledge and use of open data. The research revealed that councils are looking for more information on the benefits of open data and easy ways to publish open data without requiring significant resources. This has been taken into account when developing the toolkit and surrounding information.
Tales from the field
(1) The City of Ballarat is involved in a UNESCO pilot program in conjunction with Federation University, relating to historic urban landscapes. Data connected to this project was released in an open format. Participants at GovHack 2015 used this data to contribute to a number of community projects. For example, the ‘TimeCapsule’ team developed a prototype interactive website for recording community memories about local places. Projects like this show how open data can spark new ideas and make connections between local government and the broader community.
(2) The City of Greater Geelong has been publishing open data since 2013 and has begun to see the benefits. The City has already reported time savings from their open roof dataset (which describes roof outlines). Now that the data is open, architects and other stakeholders can access the data themselves without having to make requests. This has saved the council time and only required a few hours of preparation to get the data up and running.
In 2015, the City hosted a GovHack event which received significant positive media coverage and resulted in 10 completed projects. A selection of these are undergoing further development, with potential to result in new apps for public use. In addition, the City has reported significant cost savings due to customers ‘self-servicing’ their own data requests using open data.
(3) GIS staff are also receiving a benefit from open data, hosted by providers such as VicMap, in the form of productivity gains:
“Making Vicmap data open has helped my productivity. Now whenever I get a request from a third party for standard GIS datasets I direct them to data.vic.gov.au. This means less of my time is taken up providing standard data so I can concentrate on more important tasks and the third party now has access to base data for any of their subsequent work.” – Barrett Higman, Alpine Shire
The City of Greater Geelong has begun to see similar benefits from its own open data program. As more local governments release open data, these productivity gains are expected to increase and become more widespread.
Sources & Links
‘Turnbull signs Australia up to Open Government Partnership‘, The Mandarin, 18 November 2015
The Open Data 500 (Australia)
Western Australian Open Data Portal (including toolkit and policy)
Open Data – Brisbane City Council
Open Data Access Project – Gold Coast