Data collected and managed by the Western Australian Government is an important strategic asset and a source of significant potential value to the public sector, community and economy. However, in the past, only a limited amount of this data has been released, often in ways that are not easily accessible or useable by the public. This approach has resulted in data being a relatively underutilised resource - this is a significant missed opportunity.
Government agencies collect and manage a range of data in the course of their normal operations, usually for their own specific purposes or functions. Opening access to data more broadly will unlock opportunities for the public sector, business and the community to generate new insights, ideas and services that will help deliver efficiencies and improve the way we work and live.
Given the current fiscal constraints and increasing expectations and demands on government services, including for flexible and high quality online/mobile services, new and better uses of existing assets such as data are important now more so than ever.
In recognising the value of government data, the Western Australian Government Open Data Policy aims to facilitate greater release of data to the public in ways that are appropriate, easily discoverable and re-usable, for the purpose of generating benefits and productivity both within and outside of government.
Opening up Western Australian Government data aims to support research and education, promote innovation and bolster productivity; stimulate greater sharing and access to information across government to support evidence-based decision making in the public sector; and increase the openness and transparency of government and its processes.
The purpose of the Western Australian Government Open Data Policy is to:
- clearly state the Government's position on open data;
- encourage a consistent approach to open data across the public sector;
- help agencies and stakeholders understand the value of data and the potential benefits of open data; and
- help agencies implement best practice principles to achieve open data objectives.
3.1 What is open data?
Open data is data made available by organisations and individuals for anyone to easily find, use, transform and redistribute. For the purposes of the Western Australian Government Open Data Policy, data is considered â€˜open' when its characteristics, management and release meet the principles outlined within this Policy.
Western Australian Government data will be made available across a scale of licensing and costs, depending on the nature of the data, the administrative and technological burden of making it available, and its commercial value. Wherever possible, data will be made available at no cost to users and under least-restrictive licensing.
3.2 Why open data?
Opening access to government data, together with approaches to unlocking restrictions surrounding its use, is a growing trend nationally and internationally and has a range of potential benefits for both the public sector and the community.
This includes a more efficient and effective government through improvements in the use and application of data for financial and evidence-based policy decisions; strategic and targeted cross-agency collaboration; and the development of innovative solutions, services and tools where there is an identified policy or community need. Opening access to data also supports public sector efficiencies and savings - e.g. through reduced duplication, streamlined processes, and the development and delivery of tools/services more quickly and at lower costs.
Potential social and economic public benefits and opportunities include the development of new businesses and industries (including the not-for-profit sector) that can make use of government data; improved research outcomes; and improved citizen and business decision making.
Opening access to data also promotes a more transparent and accountable government by providing greater visibility around government activity and expenditure.
This Policy applies to all entities covered by the Public Sector Management Act 1994 (the Act). Adoption of the Policy is also recommended, where possible, for entities listed in Schedule 1 to the Act (including government enterprises, universities, courts and tribunals), consultants and contractors to government and recipients of government grants.
The Policy applies to all new data collection and creation, system development and any modernisation projects that update or re-design existing data systems.
Agencies are also encouraged to improve the discoverability and useability of existing datasets by making them open, prioritising datasets that are already publicly available, or are otherwise in demand or considered high-value by the public.
Before publishing existing data, agencies should consider the value of openness against the cost of making that data open. There should be no or minimal cost to agencies in making data open and/or for people to access the data.
While this Policy focuses on raw data, it can also apply to information.
Target beneficiaries of this Policy include:
- government agencies (local, national and international);
- non-government organisations (NGOs);
- start-ups and technology companies; and
- members of the public.
5. DATA QUALITY
It is important users have confidence in the data they are accessing and using, and are made aware of any caveats relating to it. To enable potential users to determine whether a dataset is suitable for their purposes, data should be made available with a statement regarding its quality.
Even where there are limitations with regard to a dataset, such as an incomplete dataset, releasing the data is encouraged, provided sufficient information is included to notify users of any limitations or gaps.
The following principles describe best practice standards for open data in Western Australia and provide guidance to agencies in implementing open data practice.
6.1 Open by default
Agencies are encouraged to start from a position of data openness, with the prerogative in favour of data release, unless there is a clear need to restrict or preclude access for reasons of privacy, security or other relevant considerations (see section 6.4 of this Policy).
Wherever possible, data should be made available at no cost to users in order to maximise the potential for reuse. There may be cases where agencies consider applying a reasonable charge for the data, such as where there are significant collection and maintenance costs, the data retains significant commercial value, or where legislative provision apply to the data.
6.2 Easily discoverable and subject to public input
Data should be easily discoverable and searchable, and published with metadata that enables a broad range of users to make use of the information.
Data will be accessible through the WA Data Portal (www.data.wa.gov.au) a central dataset catalogue providing a single and convenient point of access to and information about open data in Western Australia.
Open data facilitates two-way engagement and collaboration between government and the public, industry and other stakeholders. To support this, the WA Data Portal will be subject to public input and include mechanisms for users to engage with the data provider, and with the broader community, around how data is used.
Data should be published in industry-standard formats that make it easy to use, transform and reuse. This includes publishing data as collected at the source, with a high level of granularity, and not in aggregate or modified forms.
Using the Australian Government Open Access and Licensing Framework (AusGOAL), data should be licensed appropriately by agencies, the default condition being Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) as it promotes maximum dissemination and reuse of information. However, it should be noted that once a Creative Commons licence has been implemented, it cannot be revoked.
Licensing for private access is not consistent with the Creative Commons framework, so a separate licence agreement is required in these cases.
While the default position is Creative Commons, it is acknowledged that some agencies in Western Australia have developed their own licences that set out copyright arrangements. Agencies should check their own requirements prior to publishing data.
Agencies should also consider the Western Australian Government's Intellectual Property Policy which guides agencies in the development, management and use of intellectual property assets, including data.
6.4 Protected where required
Most data collected by agencies will be suitable for public release, however there are instances where exceptions apply, including:
- privacy - where personal or sensitive information is involved, or may be involved as a result of unintended data aggregation;
- security - because of the nature of the data or information;
- confidentiality - arising because of the nature of the data or information itself or because a contractual promise has been made in relation to the data or information;
- legal privilege - attaches to certain legal advice; or
- public interest - if there are public interest considerations against disclosure and, on balance, those considerations outweigh the public interest considerations in favour of disclosure.
Data should be as up-to-date as possible and made available to users in a timely manner. Agencies should clearly state the date(s) of data collection and publishing so as to permit users to make a judgement on the accuracy and currency of the dataset. As data is updated, agencies should aim to make the updated replacement data available as soon as possible.
Where relevant, and practical considerations allow it, data that represents real-time information will be made available as a live feed.
This Policy will be implemented and maintained by Landgate with progress reports to the Minister for Lands.
This Policy will build on the Western Australian Government's success in opening access to spatial data through the Location Information Strategy for Western Australia, developed by Landgate and endorsed by State Cabinet in 2012, and the Shared Location Information Platform (SLIP) implemented by Landgate thereafter.
To support implementation of this Policy, agencies are encouraged to develop their own agency-level open data policy - e.g. giving consideration to how they can collect or create data in a way that supports downstream data processing and the release of data to the public in manners consistent with the principles outlined in this Policy and without the need for costly retrofitting; and identifying how they will effectively manage their data, such as by keeping a data inventory or asset register.
Recognising agencies will start from differing levels of data openness and capacities in data collection and maintenance, agencies are encouraged to move progressively towards a position of data openness, as outlined in this Policy.
Additional information and guidance will be made available to agencies as required.
This Policy is subject to review at least every two years, or as deemed appropriate.
9. RELATED GUIDANCE
Agencies will need to ensure implementation of this Policy is consistent with and operating within any applicable legislative, policy and strategic frameworks. This may include, but is not limited to:
- Copyright Act 1968 (Commonwealth)
- Privacy Act 1988 (Commonwealth)
- Public Sector Management Act 1994
- Freedom of Information Act 1992
- State Records Act 2000
- Financial Management Act 2006
Policies and strategies
- Location Information Strategy for Western Australia
- The Western Australian Government's Intellectual Property Policy
APPENDIX A - DEFINITION OF TERMS
Data is information in a raw or pre-interpreted form, typically comprised of numbers or words. Data does not contain an explicit narrative and is primarily intended for consumption by software, not to be read by humans. A dataset is a collection of related data units.
Open data is data made available for anyone to easily find, use, transform and redistribute. For the purposes of the Western Australian Government Open Data Policy, data is considered open when its characteristics, management and release meet the principles in this Policy.
Information is any collection of data that is processed, analysed, interpreted, classified or communicated in order to serve a useful purpose, present fact or represent knowledge in any medium or form .
Data quality is a multidimensional concept which does not only include the accuracy of the data, but also stretches to include other aspects such as relevance and interpretability. According to the ABS Data Quality Framework (2009), the seven dimensions of quality are: Institutional Environment, Relevance, Timeliness, Accuracy, Coherence, Interpretability and Accessibility .
Granularity refers to the sub-division of data attributes. A high level of granularity means data are divided into multiple fields with each representing a single piece of data. For example, an address could be represented by many separate attributes such as a house number, a street name, a postcode, a state and so on, instead of a single â€˜address' attribute.
AusGOAL, the Australian Governments Open Access and Licensing Framework, provides support and guidance to government and related sectors to facilitate open access to publicly funded information. AusGOAL incorporates a licence suite that includes the Creative Commons licences, the AusGOAL Restrictive Licence Template and the BSD 3-Clause Software Licence .
Creative Commons licences provide a simple standardised way for individual creators, companies and institutions to share their work with other on flexible terms without infringing copyright. The licences allow users to reuse, remix and share the content legally .
Metadata is data that defines and describes other data, allowing users to find, manage, control and understand that data .
 Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
 ABS Data Quality Framework (2009)
 Creative Commons Australia