The Australian government on Thursday unveiled its new digital economy strategy, a near-billion dollar commitment to making the country a leading digital economy by 2030.
As part of that, it’s handed myGov AU$200.1 million.
The government has since 2013 been working on myGov — a single portal to access all government services.
“The government is enhancing myGov,” it declared. “The system … is the main portal for Australians to access government services online and is currently used by nearly 20 million Australians.
“The changes to myGov will deliver a simpler and more tailored experience for Australians based on their preferences and interactions, through streamlined and enhanced digital delivery of the government services they need.
“The time saved alone from these enhancements is estimated to generate benefits across the economy totalling AU$3.6 billion over 10 years.”
These enhancements will include an advanced service dashboard and document upload functionality that it said would allow people to view and manage their upcoming payments, claims, debt status, and activities all in one place.
It will also use part of the AU$200 million to develop a “digital assistant and notification functionality”.
It believes such a feature will make it easier for Australians to find the services that meet their needs, “whether that be seeking childcare providers or disaster relief support”, it claims.
Also receiving a funding boost this year is the country’s online medical file, My Health Record.
“The Australian government is working to reduce the reliance on paper-based records and to digitise information from primary healthcare providers, medical specialists, pathology, diagnostic imaging, and allied health services,” it said.
“This will allow Australians to easily access more of their information through the enhanced My Health Record.”
According to the Budget documents, this “easy-to-use digital interface” will provide an overview of all relevant aspects of a patient’s healthcare history and medical information.
With AU$301.8 million, the government will be building out the “next wave of My Health Record” which will provide Australians with their COVID-19 test result and immunisation status. It will also allow Australians to receive alert notifications about their COVID-19 vaccinations and connect consumers’ My Health Record information with their Residential Aged Care Facility.
PREPARING FOR A YET-TO-BE-PASSED DATA-SHARING BILL
“Effective and large-scale use of data is powering the global and connected digital economy, presenting significant economic opportunities for all sectors,” the government declares. “The COVID‑19 pandemic highlighted the need for efficient and effective data sharing to enable effective policy responses to pressing issues.”
The Data Availability and Transparency Bill 2020 is currently before Parliament. It establishes a new data sharing scheme that aims to serve as a “pathway and regulatory framework” for sharing public sector data for three permitted purposes, subject to new safeguards and enforcement mechanisms.
Rather than recommending its passage last month, the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee has asked for further protections to be inserted.
That aside, the government announced a handful of data measures on Thursday, including signalling its intention to develop an Australian Data Strategy to “create a data-driven economy through better data use”.
“The government is committing to deliver Australia’s first Data Strategy setting out how the government will enhance effective, safe, and secure data use over the period 2021 to 2025,” it said. “Data is critically important to building a modern digital economy and delivering better outcomes for Australians.”
It is expected the new strategy, due later this year, will explore the contribution of data to the digital economy, identify the government’s use of data in delivering its functions, and set out how the government will manage data as a critical asset.
As promised under the Bill, the government, in its strategy, will detail how it will support use, value, custodianship, sharing, and security of both public and private data; and commit government agencies and the Australian Public Service to enhancing their “data maturity”.
“The Data Strategy will outline a clear vision for maximising data-driven innovation across the economy by improving access to data, data sharing arrangements, data asset management, and strengthening collaboration between government and business,” it said.
As part of its work on the yet-to-be-passed Bill, the government said it has committed to making government assets discoverable to support more data use, with a AU$16.5 million funding injection.
“Most government agencies do not currently maintain a comprehensive inventory of the data they hold, limiting their ability to understand the value of their data holdings, and making it difficult to find data when needed,” it said. “This hampers access to data to support digital transformation and enable innovative, data-driven projects, and makes it harder to respond quickly during times of need.”
The Office of the National Data Commissioner, who is charged with overseeing the regime, will now also lead a pilot program to develop data inventories for 20% of Australian government agencies.
Common standards and shared infrastructure will be used to aggregate individual agency inventories into a government-wide catalogue of government-held data assets.
The government has also promised a “three-dimensional Digital Atlas of Australia’s geography”, bringing together government data on people, the economy, employment, infrastructure, health, land, and the environment into a “single national data asset”, for a cost of AU$40.2 million.
“With the Digital Atlas, users will have secure and private access to visualise and derive new insights from their own data. This will open up new economic and social opportunities — including virtually designing new roads and other major infrastructure without even having to visit the site, helping businesses make investment decisions,” the government explains.
It touted the initiative as the next generation of its location-based data infrastructure, based on a modernised National Map.
“The Digital Atlas will make better use of Australia’s over 90,000 open datasets to create a secure, dynamic, location-based and collaborative public data platform,” the government said. “The platform will drive improved place-based policy, planning, investments and decision-making across all sectors and levels of government.”
Elsewhere in the Budget, the government has allocated further funding for the Consumer Data Right (CDR).
The CDR officially launched on 1 July 2020 with the first tranche, an open banking-like regime, requiring financial services providers to share a customers’ data when requested by the customer.
The government on Thursday declared the framework is now entering a “multi-year period of growth”.
“The government is committed to delivering an economy-wide Consumer Data Right, to help consumers save time and money in finding the best deals for them for everyday products and services, based on their own data,” it said.
AU$111.3 million will be used to deliver the rules and standards to implement the CDR in the energy sector in 2021, and provide for real-time and machine-readable product data, to enable energy data sharing to commence in 2022.
The funding will also be spent on assessing and designating telecommunications as a Consumer Data Right sector and undertake a strategic assessment to deliver a roadmap for the economy-wide roll out of the CDR in the telco space.
The government will also expand international engagement to export Australia’s data portability framework, and promote an interoperable and rules-based approach to international consumer data portability frameworks and provide offshore opportunities for Australian technology companies to scale globally, it said.