A formal data strategy needed for national assets
Data is a national asset and an important economic commodity that can improve existing business efficiency and drive innovative new industries and business models for the overall benefit of Australia.
Governments are responsible for collecting and safely housing huge amounts of citizen data and reassuring the public that their data is safe and protected. Government agencies are strongly encouraged to share data and collaborate to assist government agencies in delivering effective and efficient services to all Australians.
More data, more threats
The pandemic has hastened the trend towards digitalisation and data-driven innovation, which has made it easier to enable more people to work or study remotely. There is also a growing number of sophisticated threats designed to steal or ransom data. Combined with an increased use of cloud-based digital systems and national initiatives, such as the collection of personal data to assist COVID-19 contact tracing, citizens are conveying increased privacy concerns and placing pressure on government to ensure data is shared instantly yet completely protected.
Modern technology platforms give government agencies better access to powerful data analytics. Using big data, machine learning and analytics can help data-driven federal and state agencies gain insights, then act on them to provide significant benefits to the public. Moreover, intelligent use of analytics drives outcomes that have a positive, direct impact on citizens — including better delivery of services, detection of threats, anti-money laundering, workforce effectiveness and emergency response.
The operating environment for governments is now more transparent than ever. Technology is accelerating every aspect of government, creating increased pressure on government departments to respond quickly and appropriately to needs that change quickly. Yet ICT budgets are generally shrinking rather than growing. To adapt to this new reality, CIOs must consider where to invest, how to manage costs, where to find skills and how to better leverage data to support government.
Another significant challenge is that the growth in digital initiatives and the adoption of data-driven decision-making has uncovered significant skills shortages. Data science and technology skills are very difficult to find, thus driving up the cost of labour quite dramatically.1
Recent training efforts will not be enough to fill the skills gap, with 87% of Australian jobs requiring digital skills.2 Many Australians claim their critical thinking skills improved during the pandemic; however, many still have little to no understanding of coding, blockchain, artificial intelligence and data visualisation.2 There is a dire need for Australians to enhance digital skills to both bolster and modernise the economy so that it can keep up with the ever-evolving digital landscape. Australia will need another at least 156,000 new technology workers by 2025 to turbocharge the economy.2
Strategy with vision
With modern data use ever more critical to government agencies’ ability to meet citizen expectations and data-related skills in short supply, agencies must develop a strategic policy that provides a vision and direction for a data-driven future.
The right data strategy will let government agencies share and collaborate safely to get maximum value from their data while ensuring it remains secure with manageable and predictable costs. A key component of such a strategy includes knowing where and how to invest in technology that is simple to install and operate, thus limiting the need for highly skilled personnel.
Data storage must be considered in a holistic way with an aim to develop a platform aligned with the data strategy. A well-executed strategy will invest in technology that limits the number of technology skills required, thus allowing greater investment in data science and AI skills. The ultimate objective should be to ensure that agencies better collaborate to provide integrated citizen services while protecting that data against all threats, internal and external, and leveraging data intelligently to drive government initiatives forward.
Government agencies are facing several significant challenges around data growth and how best to manage it. Conflicting pressure to share, while ensuring total data protection during a period of skill shortages and decreasing budgets, makes the role of the CIO extremely difficult. Investing in modern technology that is easy to deploy and efficient to operate will certainly help overcome some of the challenges.
Ultimately, data must be considered a strategic asset requiring executive sponsorship of a formal policy. An effective data policy system involves more than solid data management and security practices. It must include predictions on how data collection, data use and transfer restrictions are expected to change over time. Then, government agencies must design data sharing, privacy and security programs to respond to those changes to protect the national assets they are responsible for.
- Parliamentary Report - Final Report of the Inquiry into Australia's Skilled Migration Program
- RMIT Online - Ready, set, upskill
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