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Improving services through accessible machine-readable data
Governments have a significant amount of data that can be published publicly. Where this data is made available in a machine-readable way, digital services can leverage it to support improved information and service delivery for users. Examples of data in Australian government include the location and quality of broadband connections, the number of people receiving different types of support from Centrelink, or the boundaries for federal elections.
data.gov.au has thousands of data sets from hundreds of government agencies.
Open data is, at its best, data that is:
- freely available
- easily discoverable and accessible
- published in ways, and under licences, that allow reuse.
Government data should be by default:
- on or linked through data.gov.au for discoverability
- in a machine-readable, spatially-enabled format
- presented with descriptive metadata
- free to the end user
- published using agreed open data standards
- kept up to date, where appropriate, in an automated way
- made available under a Creative Commons BY Attribution licence, unless a clear case is made for another open licence.
Open data may be available in other formats that do not meet these standards. For example, data published in a PDF file with all rights reserved is less open than data in a spreadsheet file published under a Creative Commons by licence. However, both are forms of open data.
The open data toolkit provides guidance, policy and supporting information to help you open up your data and publish it.
Why must I?
Your open data can give:
- users - information and an informed choice about the services they use
- Service Managers - the information they can rely on to understand what what users need
- businesses and the community (including voluntary sector) - an opportunity to take the data released and produce goods and services from it.
Building your services on open formats and open standards means that you can more easily share, reuse or exchange data. It will also mean that you will have a choice in which technology to implement, rather than being limited to a particular product or supplier.
How do I?
Open service data
Overall, government produces a lot of data that describes the services that we offer and how well those services are performing. For example, data from analytics tools and key performance indicators. There’s also data on how people use these services and who those people are.
Data about service performance allows Service Managers to see how well a service is running. It also means that users can hold us to account. Data about service performance should be public data.
You should publish all public data. But you should not publish any private details/data collected from people or data that’s restricted for national security reasons.
Public data is anonymised data:
- on which public services are run and assessed
- on which policy decisions are based
- that is collected or generated in the course of your service delivery.
If, for some reason, you have made a procurement choice that means your performance data is monitored or stored by a third party, you should make sure that you have the right to access, export, share and reuse that data openly and in an open format.
For more information refer to the Principles on Open Public Sector Information and the Australian Government intellectual property rules.
Build on service data
People are already using your services, giving you lots of data about their behaviour. This means you can learn from real world behaviour when you’re designing a new digital service. You can watch and learn from your users, shaping the system to fit what people naturally choose to do.
In making your data open, you are encouraging greater use of the data and helping users to innovate.
Developers need to be able to use the data, to share it, and combine it with other data to use in their own applications, for example through application programming interfaces (APIs).
As with all government digital services, you’ll need to understand the user need for the data you publish.
You’ll need to keep developers aware of what datasets you’re releasing and to maintain relationships with the primary data users that are at the cutting edge of technology. They can help you to do things differently and in more agile ways. You can subscribe to the data.gov.au blog to keep in touch.
You should consider privacy issues at the beginning of all discussions concerning the release of a new dataset, the building of, or change to a digital service dealing with personal data. It is important to ensure you approach data publishing with privacy and security principles in mind. You need to be careful in protecting individual privacy by taking appropriate steps to ensure personal data is secure.
Under the Privacy Act 1988, information becomes ‘personal information’ if there is a chance a person’s identity could be determined. As more data becomes available, and particularly as datasets are made available for data-matching, it becomes easier to link information back to an individual. You must take steps to anonymise the data to ensure confidentiality of individuals while, at the same time, maintaining the integrity of the data and its value to users.
License data for re-use
Licences provide a clear and standard guide for other people about how they can use your data, including the option to re-use, remix and share the content.
You should provide easy access to material that you publish. You can encourage its public use by providing permissions for its use and re-use of material without requiring royalties and on a non-exclusive basis.
You should use the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0 AU) for publishing data and information, unless a clear case is made for another open licence. You can access the licence text on the Creative Commons website in either plain English or legal code.
This content has been adapted from the UK Government Design Manual guide on Open data under the Open Government Licence v2.0 and from the Australian Government Open Data Toolkit under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence.
Last updated: 21 July 2015