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Open data reform – Implications for Australia’s tech sector

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This article was written by Jason Kwan. 

As Australia's economy continues to gear up for the information age, the tech industry and the government face a significant challenge - how to create the optimum policy framework to facilitate open data sharing without destroying existing economic value?

The Productivity Commission is currently looking at data availability and use issues across our economy. As we previously reported, the Commission released its draft report in November last year. Following a further period of consultation, it is expected to release its final report later this month.

The final report will be essential reading for companies in the tech sector (and these days, isn't almost every company part of the tech sector?). The Commission's recommendations are likely to provide both opportunities and challenges for Australia's tech innovators, whose business models invariably depend on data as a key input:

  • It will be interesting to see how the Commission's final report will address the new 'Comprehensive Right' proposed in the draft report, which would give individuals the ability to require a copy of their data to be transferred from one service provider to another. While the intention is to facilitate competition, there is concern that the compulsory sharing of data may also lead to the forced sharing of proprietary information and insights which may, in fact, discourage further investment in data analytics. Many industry figures have argued that any scheme should be limited to raw transactional data, and should not extend to any type of value-added information or operational data.
  • The Commission's initial recommendations about opening up designated 'National Interest Datasets' to trusted users under a new data sharing framework may represent a significant opportunity for innovators who are able to generate new economic value from this data. Providers of digital rights management technology may also find new opportunities in this area, as it will be important to ensure that appropriate access controls are applied to any newly released datasets.

The task facing the Commission in making its final recommendations is to strike the right balance between incentivising new product and service development on the one hand and protecting existing capital investments that many organisations (particularly those in the technology industry) have already made in creating significant value added data assets.

The Commission's final report is due to be handed to the Australian Government soon. Keep an eye out for our update following its wider release, in which we will analyse the report's final recommendations and how they may affect your organisation or business if implemented.

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