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Data availability and use

Draft report

Released 03 / 11 / 2016

You were invited to examine the draft report and to make written submissions by 12 December 2016.

This inquiry is complete. The final report was handed to the Australian Government on 31 March 2017 and was publicly released on 8 May 2017.

Please note: This draft report is for research purposes only. For final outcomes of this inquiry refer to the inquiry report.

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Download the draft report

  • At a glance
  • Video
  • Infographic

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Key points

  • Extraordinary growth in data generation and usability have enabled a kaleidoscope of new business models, products and insights to emerge. Individuals, businesses, governments and the broader community have all benefited from these changes.
  • Frameworks and protections developed for data collection and access prior to sweeping digitisation now need reform. This is a global phenomenon and Australia, to its detriment, is not yet participating.
  • The substantive argument in favour of making data more available is that opportunities to use it are largely unknown until the data sources themselves are better known, and until data users have been able to undertake discovery of data.
  • Lack of trust and numerous barriers to sharing and releasing data are stymieing the use and value of Australia's data.
  • Marginal changes to existing structures and legislation will not suffice. The Commission is proposing reforms to data availability and use, aimed at moving from a system based on risk aversion and avoidance, to one based on transparency and confidence in data processes.
  • At the centre of proposed reforms is the introduction of a new Data Sharing and Release Act, a new National Data Custodian, and a suite of sectoral Accredited Release Authorities that will enable streamlined access to curated datasets.
  • A key element of the recommended reforms is to provide greater control for individuals over data that is collected on them by defining a new Comprehensive Right for consumers. This right would mean consumers:
    • retain the power to view information held on them, request edits or corrections, and be advised of disclosure to third parties
    • have improved rights to opt out of collection in some circumstances; and have a new right to a machine-readable copy of data, provided either to them or to a nominated third party, such as a new service provider.
  • Broad access to key National Interest Datasets should be enabled.
    • For datasets designated as national interest, all restrictions to access and use contained in a variety of national and state legislation, and other program-specific policies, would be replaced by new arrangements under the Data Sharing and Release Act.
    • Datasets would be maintained as national assets, access would be substantially streamlined, and linkage with other National Interest Datasets would be feasible.
    • Initial datasets that may be designated national interest and publicly released could include key registries of businesses, services or assets, and data on activity and usage in areas of substantial public expenditure.
  • Secure sharing of identifiable data held in the public sector and by publicly funded research bodies should be formalised and streamlined. By pre-approving data uses, trusted users would have more timely access to identifiable data through Accredited Release Authorities and ethics committees.
  • The incremental costs associated with more open data access and use — including possible impacts on individuals' privacy and willingness to share data — are expected to be minimal, but they will exist. But greater use of Australia's data can coexist with the management of these risks, including genuine safeguards and meaningful transparency to maintain community trust and confidence.

Media release

Australia's new data framework puts consumers in control

The Productivity Commission is recommending a major overhaul of Australia's data policy framework, including the introduction of a Comprehensive Right to give people more control over their data. Changes in the way business and government manage people's data needs to be a priority if Australia is to reap the benefits of data as an asset.

'Surprising though it may be to many, individuals have no rights to ownership of the data that is collected about them. Data is increasingly an asset, and when you create an asset you should have the ability to use it, or not, at your choice,' Productivity Commission Chair, Peter Harris said.

‘We are proposing the creation of a Comprehensive Right to data control for consumers that would give people the right to access their data, and direct that it be sent to another party, such as a new doctor, insurance company or bank. Plus an expanded right for people to opt out of data-collecting activities. And existing privacy laws would all remain in place,'' he said.

This Comprehensive Right which would give consumers the right to direct data holders, in both the private or public sector, to transfer a copy of their information to a third party is a big shift in competition policy. Consumers in this instance would also include businesses when they are acting as purchasers.

'This will give people and businesses who want to be active consumers, genuine control over their data, and will allow innovative businesses and governments the chance to offer those consumers better services. It will increase competition, and give businesses and governments strong incentives to handle data better.'

The report shows that Australia is missing out on opportunities for improved health care, safer and more efficient infrastructure and machinery maintenance, enhanced supply chain logistics, and the development of more tailored, data-driven, financial and energy market products.

The report warns that Australia can no longer afford to forgo its benefits under the misconception that denying access will minimise risks.

'The risks from the proposed reforms are no greater than the risks today that are managed by any consumer who chooses to click a mouse and buy or subscribe to a product. And the same advice applies: be very choosey about who you share your data with,' Productivity Commission Chair, Peter Harris said.


Australia is rapidly falling behind other countries such as the UK and New Zealand in our use of data and we need to allow broader and quicker access for important research and development.

‘We saw a number of cases where health researchers were waiting years to access data. This research led to important changes in treatment processes and literally saved lives. In one important research study they still don't have the data they require and they have been waiting eight years,' Mr Harris said.

The reforms proposed include a contemporary approach to providing permission to Australian Government agencies to share and release data, subject to strong safeguards. A newly established National Data Custodian would have responsibility for accrediting data sharing and release, including a suite of national interest datasets. States and territories would be invited to contribute to and use the national interest datasets.

Public hearings for this Inquiry will be held on 21 November in Melbourne and on 28 November in Sydney.


  • Preliminaries: Cover, Copyright, Opportunity for further comment, Terms of reference, Contents and Abbreviations
  • Overview - including key points
  • Draft recommendations, findings and information requests
  • Chapter 1 Data, data everywhere
    • 1.1 About the Inquiry
    • 1.2 Why data matters
    • 1.3 Stakeholders in data management and access
    • 1.4 The challenges for governments and society
  • Chapter 2 Opportunities enabled by data
    • 2.1 What can be done with data?
    • 2.2 High value datasets
  • Chapter 3 Public sector and research data collection and access
    • 3.1 What data is collected and what is done with it?
    • 3.2 The state of open access in Australia
    • 3.3 Restricted access to public sector data
    • 3.4 What is holding the public sector back?
    • 3.5 Research data reuse
  • Chapter 4 Private sector data collection and access
    • 4.1 Commercial entities in regulated sectors
    • 4.2 Entities in less regulated sectors
    • 4.3 Are current private sector arrangements sound?
    • 4.4 Consumers beware
  • Chapter 5 It's all about you: the challenges of using identifiable information
    • 5.1 What is identifiable information?
    • 5.2 The legal environment aims for flexibility, but risk aversion results in paralysis
    • 5.3 Lengthy approval processes waste time and money
    • 5.4 Data custodians have limited incentives to release identifiable data — and plenty of reasons not to
    • 5.5 There are risks of improved access, but most breaches happen in data collection and storage
    • 5.6 Data access protocols are already in place — but progress has been slow
    • 5.7 A comprehensive policy approach would be better to tackle the challenges
  • Chapter 6 Making data useful
    • 6.1 What makes data useful?
    • 6.2 Data collection: a fragmented picture with too much overlap
    • 6.3 Data management: standards turn data into a useful asset
    • 6.4 Technological challenges and opportunities
    • 6.5 Capability and resource constraints
  • Chapter 7 Value adding and pricing decisions
    • 7.1 Value adding and sale of private sector data
    • 7.2 Value adding and sale of public sector data
    • 7.3 Pricing of public sector data
    • 7.4 Funding support for public sector data release
  • Chapter 8 Options for comprehensive reform
    • 8.1 What outcomes are we trying to achieve?
    • 8.2 Criteria for assessing reform options
    • 8.3 Policy options to improve outcomes for individuals
    • 8.4 Policy options for sharing and release of public sector data
    • 8.5 Greater openness by the research sector
    • 8.6 Greater openness in private sector data
  • Chapter 9 A framework for Australia's data future
    • 9.1 What is directing the recommended approach?
    • 9.2 Element 1 — Giving individuals power in data held on them
    • 9.3 Element 2 — Access to datasets of national interest
    • 9.4 Element 3 — Sharing identifiable data with trusted users
    • 9.5 Element 4 — Release of other data for widespread use
    • 9.6 Legislative and institutional changes required
  • Chapter 10 Trust: the foundation of the new data framework
    • 10.1 Increasing access to data for all Australians — what's in it for us?
    • 10.2 Data custodians — replacing a culture of risk aversion with trust and incentives to share
    • 10.3 Data users need strong incentives to maintain system integrity
    • 10.4 Maintaining the social licence to collect and use data
    • 10.5 Finally, a word on implementation
  • Appendix A Inquiry conduct and participants
  • Appendix B Australia's public sector data infrastructure
  • Appendix C Australia's legislative and policy frameworks
  • Appendix D Case Study: Health data
  • Appendix E Case study: Financial data
  • Appendix F Case Study: Data from your Internet activities and intelligent devices
  • References

Transcript of video

Using data effectively has made our lives simpler and easier and will continue to do so.

But there are many more opportunities and fundamental change is needed to let people access data.

Because while we are creating more data than ever, Australia is not making the most of it.

Data is a new resource for our economy, and society, and there's no good reason to lock it up.

Australia has fallen behind other countries in how well we share and use the data we create.

It is broke and we do need to fix it.

The Productivity Commission report on Data Availability recommends new rights for how we manage and use data - so that we all benefit.

Health is a key area where sharing data can literally save lives.

Using and sharing data, means patients are more likely to get the right treatment, at the right time.

While a lot of data is created in health. a lot of it is not used and not easily shared.

In some hospitals in Australia, patient records cannot not be transferred between wards, because the data recording systems are not compatible.

In another example, it took researchers five years to get the data they needed. Their work showed a link between increased cancer risk, and young people undergoing CT scans.

In another celebrated example, a research project into vaccines has been waiting almost 8 years and still doesn't have all the health data it needs.

We provide data to companies and businesses every day. You may think you have control of your data, but you don't.

We need to address this with new rights.

You should be able to instruct businesses like banks or electricity providers, to share your data with other businesses, so you can find a better deal.

Data should be better organised so it's more valuable and accessible for Australians, with strong privacy safeguards for datasets.

Read our recommendations in our Data Availability and Use draft report and contribute your thoughts, or data, today.

Download the infographic

Data Availability and Use - Draft Report infographic. Text version follows.

Data Availability and Use - Draft Report (Text version of infographic)

Globally, we are creating more data than ever...

[Graph] Global data generation forecast. Zettabyte (ZB) = 1,000,000,000 Terabytes

2005 - 2 ZB
2010 - 3 ZB
2016 - 12 ZB
2020 - 40 ZB

...but Australia is not making the most of it...

[Scoreboard] Data Sharing and Creation: The World 1 - Australia 0.

...and we are falling behind other countries in how well we share and use the data we create.

Data is a new resource for our economy and society and there's no good reason to lock it up.

Data is increasingly an asset, and when you create an asset you should have the ability to use it, or not, at your choice.

Our draft report recommends people have more rights over the data collected about them.

  • User rights
  • Data collection
  • Opportunity
  • Innovation
  • Discovery

Read the draft report and make a submission.

Printed copies

Printed copies of this report can be purchased from Canprint Communications.

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