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Governments to develop national data sharing agreement in Australia

Federal, state and territory leaders have agreed to create an intergovernmental agreement to facilitate greater data sharing between all levels of government. The plan for the high-level agreement, which is still to be developed, was endorsed at a meeting of the national cabinet on 9 April 2021.

The Prime Minister stated that the national cabinet agreed that jurisdictions will work together to capitalise on the value of public data to achieve better outcomes for Australians. He noted that to achieve this, first ministers [and state and territory premiers] committed to developing an intergovernmental agreement which will be considered at a future national cabinet meeting.

While details are limited, the pact will likely make it easier for federal, state and territory government to share data, building on efforts with health and travel data during Covid-19.

The planned agreement would likely work alongside the Data Availability and Transparency Bill, which is currently before federal parliament. The legislation aims to streamline data sharing between governments and the private sector, overriding some 500 provisions in 175 pieces of existing legislation.

However, it faces calls for amendments from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Australian Medical Association and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

The Australian Financial Review is also reporting that the agreement can be expected to lay the foundations for linked-up government services around key life events or journeys.

It means citizens could interact with government services across all tiers using one-stops shops like the federal government’s myGov or the NSW government’s MyServiceNSW.

myGov is already undergoing a major overhaul – for $35 million to date – to align services more closely with life events while offering a personalised view of interactions.

Data sharing has long been a focus of discussion for federal, state and territory digital ministers at the data and digital minister’s meeting.

At the last meeting in February, discussions centred on “how to meet the data needs of decision-makers across jurisdictions, including through better data sharing”.

The communique notes that improved data sharing can boost the economy and lead to better service design and delivery.

One dataset that is advancing the conversation is the national disability data asset, which is paving the way for a federation-wide view of the disability sector.

The asset – which digital ministers agreed to established in September 2019 – incorporates datasets from the federal, NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australian governments. Other areas front of mind for data sharing include emergency services, with the recent commitment to develop a national multi-hazards warning service for natural disasters.

Demand for smart city initiatives rising

Enhanced data sharing capabilities between various governmental levels and departments is key to creating smart cities and a smart nation overall.

An earlier article notes that despite posing significant hurdles to cities worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a wave of innovation that will continue after the crisis, according to research from a global think tank.

The ‘Smart City Solutions for a Riskier World’ study underscores the vital role that technology, data, cybersecurity and public-private partnerships play to ensure a healthy, safe and prosperous future for citizens after the pandemic.

The research, conducted in August and September 2020, included a survey of senior officials from 167 cities across 82 countries, including Asia, North and Latin America, MENA, Europe and Africa. The cities represented 526 million people or 6.8% of the world’s population; 53% of these cities are in emerging markets and 47% in developed countries.

The survey categorises cities based on progress in two categories: progress in applying smart solutions, with cities classified as either ‘beginner’, ‘intermediate’ or ‘leader’; and progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with cities classified as either ‘implementer’, ‘advancer’ or ‘sprinter’. Cities that excelled in both areas were considered Cities 4.0 — hyperconnected cities that are sustainable and well ahead in the use of technology, data and citizen engagement.

For 65% of city officials, the pandemic underscored the importance of smart city programs, while 43% learned the importance of operational continuity and agility. For 37% of city leaders, the pandemic also highlighted the need to invest more in upgrading core infrastructure.

For 88% of city leaders, investing in cloud platforms is urgently needed to deliver critical and non-critical citizen services. The survey also found that 66% of cities are investing heavily in AI, with 80% forecast to do so over the next three years, especially in the area of digital assistants and chatbots. Meanwhile, 30% of cities will invest in digital twins, marking a 300% increase from the 11% currently investing in this technology. Research also indicates that 100% of Cities 4.0 have already invested in cloud; based on reported ROI estimates, the average return on digital infrastructure investments made by Cities 4.0 is 5.74%.

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