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Australian government releases big data issues paper

The Australian government could tap data from Google, Twitter and Facebook as it seeks to embrace big data, according to an issues paper released Friday evening.

"Private sector organisations such as Google, Twitter and Facebook hold enormous data stores on Australian citizens and people across the world, and offer access to these on commercial terms," the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) wrote in the report.

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"While needing to carefully consider the veracity of this data, it may be that agencies could consider using this data as part of big data analytics projects."

Australian Government CIO Glenn Archer announced the big data strategy last week. The release of the issues paper opens a three-week consultation period to collect feedback from industry and the public. A final big data strategy will arrive in June or July this year.

AGIMO plans to develop the strategy with the private and public sectors, including the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and the Attorney General.

In the issues paper, AGIMO stressed that the government is committed to protecting citizens' privacy.

The government's "aim is to ensure that the use of the new technology and tools supporting big data will deliver benefits while maintaining compliance with privacy," it said.

Government has plenty of its own data that could be tapped to speed and enhance government services, AGIMO said.

"Government agencies hold or have access to an ever increasing wealth of data including spatial and location data, as well as data collected from and by citizens."

"Experience suggests that such data can be utilised in ways that have the potential to transform service design and delivery so that personalised and streamlined services, that accurately and specifically meet individual's needs, can be delivered to them in a timely manner."

That could have a range of public benefits, including for fraud reduction, medical care and emergency services, it said.

Beyond the privacy concerns, AGIMO noted that the sheer amount of data could pose a challenge for the government.

"Current technology, architecture, management and analysis approaches are unable to cope with the flood of data, and organisations will need to change the way they think about, plan, govern, manage, process and report on data to realise the potential of big data."

The cloud and the NBN could help sift through the load, it said.

"Cloud computing offers agencies the flexibility to store, and perform computational analysis on, increasingly large data sets in a manner previously not possible."

Meanwhile, the NBN "will assist in providing the necessary bandwidth to transport the data and may help to enable data to be analysed in a cloud environment and in near real-time."

AGIMO said it also seeks to address an ICT skills gap with the big data strategy.

"There is currently a shortage of university degrees that have a curriculum focused on big data analytics," it said.

"Government agencies will look for opportunities to leverage support from the expertise and experience in big data that is found inside and outside of government.

"Agencies will also consider opportunities for partnerships with industry ... as well as independent research bodies and academia that will allow agencies to attract, retain and maintain expertise in this area much as it does with senior staff across other functional areas of government."

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam


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