Back in June the Australian Minister for Finance announced a new Government 2.0 Taskforce. Part of the work of this new taskforce includes:

increasing the openness of government through making public sector information more widely available to promote transparency, innovation and value adding to government information

Paralleling recent initiatives such as the UK’s Power of Information Taskforce and the USA’s Open Government Initiative – the Taskforce will provide advice and funding for projects and initiatives related to opening up government information in Australia.

Last month they announced the release of an Official Issues Paper which they will be accepting comments on until next Monday 24th August:

  1. Openness. Maximising the availability of public sector information for use and re-use based upon presumption of openness as the default rule to facilitate access and re-use. Developing a regime of access principles or assuming openness in public sector information as a default rule wherever possible no matter what the model of funding is for the development and maintenance of the information. Defining grounds of refusal or limitations, such as for protection of national security interests, personal privacy, preservation of private interests for example where protected by copyright, or the application of national access legislation and rules.

  2. Access and transparent conditions for re-use. Encouraging broad non-discriminatory competitive access and conditions for re-use of public sector information, eliminating exclusive arrangements, and removing unnecessary restrictions on the ways in which it can be accessed, used, re-used, combined or shared, so that in principle all accessible information would be open to re-use by all. Improving access to information over the Internet and in electronic form. Making available and developing automated on-line licensing systems covering re-use in those cases where licensing is applied, taking into account the copyright principle below.

  3. Asset lists. Strengthening awareness of what public sector information is available for access and re-use. This could take the form of information asset lists and inventories, preferably published on-line, as well as clear presentation of conditions to access and re-use at access points to the information.

In relation to points 1. and 2. we hope this means open and reusable as in the Open Knowledge Definition. In relation to point 3., we’d love to have the main collections of content and data listed on CKAN! (See also this recent post about catalogues of open government data…)

Questions related to open government data in the paper include:

Question 1: How widely should policy to optimise the openness of public sector information be applied? Should it be applied beyond government departments and, if so, to which bodies, for instance government business enterprises or statutory authorities?

Question 3: What government information would you like to see made more freely available?

Question 5: What is needed to make the large volume of public sector information (a) searchable and (b) useable? And in each case, what do we do about legacy information in agencies? How might the licensing of on-line information be improved to facilitate greater re-use where appropriate?

Question 6: How does government ensure that people, business, industry and other potential users of government information know about, and can readily find, information they may want to use, for example, the use of a consolidated directory or repository for public sector information?

Question 17: What sort of public sector information should be released under what form of copyright license? When should government continue to utilise its intellectual property rights?

Question 18: When should agencies charge for access to information? Should agencies charge when they are providing value-added services? What might constitute ‘value added services’ (eg customisation of information)? In what circumstances should agencies be able to recover the costs of obtaining the information or providing access? A common model in the private sector is ‘freemium’ distribution whereby many, often most, users are supplied with some product or service for free whilst others pay for use in large scale commercial enterprise (for instance AVG anti-virus) or for some premium product (for instance Word Web). Are there similar models for public sector information and/or do they merit further consideration?

We hope they get plenty of responses!

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Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at and he tweets at @jwyg.

6 thoughts on “What do you think about open government data in Australia?”

  1. Should we submit some comments ourselves? This should also be posted to okfn-discuss. There must be some people there who are Australia-based …

  2. All data that doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the privacy act and is gathered with public money should be release.

    There is pressure on government body’s to find other sources of income, so they prefer to sell data than release it back to the public who ultimately owns it.

    It something that is starting to happen at the local government level throughout Australia, just take a look at Mosman City Council.

  3. Paul: absolutely agree with you on the general principle that non-personal data should be released. You are also quite right that there is a tendency for individual agencies and departments to stray from this line (often when under pressure to raise funds).

    You mentioned Mosman City Council: what happened there exactly?

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