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The APS is due for a whole-of-government data glow-up, with a Budget commitment of “significant and targeted investment in data and digital capability” to deliver better services to citizens. But beyond the infrastructure investments, major efforts to deliver training of the top ranks of the public service are also underway.
How more sophisticated data insights can elevate public administration and policymaking has become a growing concern for the government.
Once the exclusive purview of data-gathering agencies like the Australian Tax Office or the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a digital, connected world of mobile devices and almost constant internet connectivity means institutions have never had access to so much rich data or opportunity to use it ways that can lead to better services and smarter decision-making.
Now everyone from the departments of education and health to the ABC is mining anonymised citizen information to extract the facts from what used to be decisions made based on ‘gut feel’ or some powerful anecdotal evidence.
Some of the government’s cutting-edge data initiatives were showcased at a data forum in Canberra on Wednesday.
The ABS’s Dr David Gruen, Australia’s top statistician and head of the Australian Public Service data profession, outlined what strides in capability uplift were being made to make the most of these growing data assets.
“Data professionals are increasingly accessing this deluge of data and using it to derive insights of value both privately. Think about the most valuable companies in the world these days — they’re all data companies in one way or another but also for public policy purposes,” Gruen said.
“Being able to access and use data for public policy development and efficient service delivery has become a prominent part of the successful operation of the public service.
“Data is also a focus of the government’s agenda,” he added, referencing public service minister Katy Gallagher’s clear commitments to data-driven policy goals and an initial strategy that was released last week.
“This heightened interest and availability of data brings into focus how important it is to lift data capability across the public service,” he said.