New NSW Government strategy sets the stage for a data-powered future

Snowflake
By Minh Nguyen, NSW Public Sector Lead, Snowflake
Thursday, 01 July, 2021


Acknowledging the increasing importance of digital data to the functioning of the public sector, the NSW Government has unveiled a new Data Strategy designed to guide forward planning and investment.

The strategy comes at a time when the government is coping with a range of unexpected challenges including bushfires, floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Each requires existing priorities to be reassessed and strategic plans reformulated.

In essence, the strategy focuses on finding ways to make better use of data across all departments and agencies. This, in turn, will allow the government to accelerate actionable insights by making data more available to decision makers.

The strategy also examines how the state government can improve the way it collaborates, both internally, with other organisations, and with members of the general public. It’s anticipated better collaboration will help in delivery of better outcomes for the community by putting data at the very heart of the decision-making process.

The NSW Government’s Data Strategy is being implemented in three stages. Work has been completed on stage one during which a suitable framework was established. In stage two, focus will shift to the practical steps required to put the strategy into action.

Scalability will be key

Improving the way data is used within the NSW Government is going to require a shift in the way it is stored and accessed. Presently, departments and agencies tend to retain their digital data in silos which makes it difficult for other parties to access and use.

To overcome this challenge, investments will be required to create a whole-of-government data exchange. Built using cloud-based resources, this store would make data readily available to those who require it.

Building such a cloud-based platform would also ensure the government is well placed to deal with the ongoing rapid growth in data volumes. Rather than needing to purchase, deploy, and manage growing numbers of servers in an on-premise datacentre, capacity can simply be ‘rented’ as it is required.

The importance of data sharing

A core part of the NSW Government Data Strategy focuses on the important role that is played by data sharing. Within the theme of ‘connected government’, the strategy emphasises that an approach needs to be followed that allows the sharing of data and insights across government to allow more informed decisions and planning.

Such a vision should be applauded and needs to be taken into consideration from the beginning. Effective data planning needs to be designed into a platform from the outset rather than being retrofitted at a later date.

For this reason, data sharing must be top-of-mind when new applications are deployed and data-generating activities undertaken. Attention should be given to factors such as the format of the data, how and where it will be stored, and whether it will be compatible with systems being used by other groups.

This is where the cloud-based platform comes into its own. With strict security and access measures in place, authorised users can be granted access to the data they require to support their activities.

This approach also ensures that performance does not become an issue when multiple parties are using the same data sets. The data is held centrally with computation and manipulation taking place using the resources of the party gaining access.

The growing role of third parties

Recent challenges such as the pandemic and natural disasters have shown the importance of governments working together with external organisations to deliver required services. These include everything from emergency response groups to healthcare providers and business groups.

With these relationships likely to remain in place, the importance of being able to securely and effectively exchange data will continue to be high.

Within the strategy, it is clear that the NSW Government is intent on developing secure data exchange capabilities that incorporate privacy-enhancing technologies that enable data discovery, sharing, and use.

The road ahead

It’s clear that improved use of data can add significant value for government and greatly improve the extent and standard of the services it can offer. The NSW Government Data Strategy is a fantastic acknowledgement of the necessity of actionable and trusted data, not just at an individual department level but holistically across the various agencies and partners that work with the NSW Government.

These points align with themes that are seen globally around breaking down organisational data silos, data democratisation (making data accessible), and enabling data sharing internally and with external partners — and doing so in a governed and secure manner.

This strategic thinking is key to driving these themes as a must-have requirement of the solution architecture, ensuring they’re not set aside as an afterthought that becomes too hard to retrofit.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/alengo

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