According to World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt (PDF), “data is the new raw material of the 21st century”.

Even this guy can't beat The Matrix

Open data itself is not a new concept. According to Berners-Lee and Shadbolt, “open data helped Florence Nightingale to revolutionise nursing in 1856 when she showed that most soldiers in the Crimean War died of disease rather than from their wounds”.

The quest to expand and improve access to information is as old as human history. The first book with an alphabetical index, published by two German printers in 1467, was one game-changing innovation in a long and honourable tradition.

What has changed now is not the value of open data but the technology we have to put it to good use.

Around the world, the removal of barriers to information coupled with advances in information and communications technology is driving progress.

For example, New York City has released some 900 data sets through the NYC Open Data platform. Through the NYC BigApps contest, app designers have harnessed city data to do everything from helping apartment hunters with building maintenance reports to crowdsourcing good places to work to finding a place to park.

Apple’s App Store provides a platform and quality control for developers who have created hundreds of thousands of apps, with many apps built on data made publicly available by governments.

A 2011 study by the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies at Victoria University, Costs and Benefits of Data Provision, found that making data “freely available” is actually likely to reduce the costs to agencies of disseminating data by reducing or eliminating transaction costs. The study found that open data would benefit users not just by providing free access, but also by encouraging more people to use and reuse the data.

Significantly, the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies found that the early benefits of making data available “tend to understate the longer-term advantages”, because of the potential of wider data use to generate “new products, services and processes that, in turn, generate new economic activity, new business opportunities, better informed and potentially better government and business decisions”.

The mounting case for open data poses a new challenge to government and, with it, the need for fresh thinking.

The world is moving on from the 20th century model of government knows best. When it comes to putting our community’s data to good use, the new organising principle must be that “nobody is as smart as everybody”.

In practice, this means combining the considerable resource of government-held data with an even greater resource: the talent and creativity of our community and industries.

The Coalition Government believes in the talent of Victorians. We recognise that innovation and creativity cannot be decreed by government but emerge from a complex and dynamic society.

Each year the Victorian Government invests millions of dollars in producing and acquiring high-quality data about our state as part of government’s usual functions, towards the development of policy, regulatory and administrative purposes. Recurrent and reliable access to this data will be a long-overdue economic stimulus. Victorian businesses, organisations and individuals will be able to build innovative applications on the platform of our community’s data, creating new services or improving existing ones.

Under the Victorian Coalition Government’s DataVic Access and Intellectual Property Policies, it will be significantly easier to identify Victorian Government data and to access it, in most cases, at no cost.

As a default position, data from all Victorian government agencies will now be made available under flexible licensing arrangements in a machine-readable format that will minimise costs to business and maximise use and reuse.

The gateway to government datasets is online at, where users can download raw data, use a range of data tools and suggest new datasets.

In the last month the datasets available through this portal have already doubled. As the DataVic Access policy is implemented over the course of 2013 across all government departments, we expect to see a vast array of new datasets being made available in the public domain.

In driving the release of useable, high-quality data, these new policies will stimulate significant innovation and economic activity, creating a platform on which to create new technologies, new services and, ultimately, new jobs.

The spatial technology industry will play a key role in making the most of the opportunities which opening up access to government data will provide as it develops ever more sophisticated mashups of mapping, satellite and surveillance data with rich data sources covering demographic, environmental, financial, education, health information and more.

The applications enabled by geospatial technology are at the forefront of new digital services, and providing open access to the government’s spatial data will play a key role in realising the full potential of these policies. These varied applications can be as significant as tracking the impacts of natural disasters and providing highly accurate public transport data or as incidental as finding the nearest quality coffee.

The Government’s DataVic Access policy places Victoria at the head of the pack in Australia on mandating access to state government data.

The Victorian Government sees data and access to data as key drivers of innovation. Increasingly, the community itself will be the innovator, and we will all benefit from that data being made available.

Gordon Rich-Phillips is Minister for Technology in the Victorian Coalition Government

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST.

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    • acotrel says:

      06:57am | 24/09/12

      Data is essential in assessing risk which is based on likelihood and potential consequences - part of the duty of care of governments. If we set national goals, we can risk manage our way towards them. Which political party has a ‘vision’ for the future of Australia, and the smarts to pursue it ?

    • nihonin says:

      08:27am | 24/09/12

      ‘Which political party has a ‘vision’ for the future of Australia, and the smarts to pursue it ?’

      I know who you lean towards and I know which one I trust a bit more to have a vision, but still I’d like to know how they’re both going to fund these visions with the surplus Wayne Swan has promised to deliver….no snickering please.

    • Phil S says:

      08:31am | 24/09/12

      Well it sounds like the victorian liberals are at least not living in the dark ages. Maybe they can see the benefits of ubiquitous fiber broadband and convince their federal counterparts to back the NBN in it’s current form as proposed by federal Labor?

      Otherwise this whole article is a joke. It is all very well making data available, but if the infrastructure to access that data is a mess of outdated technology, it is not going to have the impact they want.

      Bring on the NBN

    • acotrel says:

      09:43am | 24/09/12

      I like your post on the NBN, and in saying the following I’m not having a cheap shot at the LNP. The claim that the NBN is a white elephant, and that mix of technologies should be used is indicative of what is wrong with Australia.  We should lose the old ‘if it ain’t brokee don’t fix it, she ‘ll be right mate’ and replace it with ‘do it right first time’. - ‘Quality doesn’t cost, it pays.’ If the NBN had been an LNP initiative, I would still have strongly supported it.  I believe it will revolutionise Australia in the way we train, think, and do business.  The high download speeds will mean that our current techniques will speed up dramatically, and things such as hyperlinks will operate instantly.  The video aspects should be really spectacular.

    • acotrel says:

      09:46am | 24/09/12

      Do you place your trust on the basis of previous evidence ?  The monuments are there for all to see:
      Sydney Harbour Bridge
      Snowey Hydro Scheme.

    • nihonin says:

      10:17am | 24/09/12

      Do you place your trust on the basis of previous evidence ?  The monuments are there for all to see:
      Sydney Harbour Bridge
      Snowey Hydro Scheme.

      Indeed they are acotrel, but lets not forget these the results of both Labor and Liberal governments, a long long time ago.  They’re not monuments either, they’re infrastructure, which surprise surprise is what governments are suppose to provide, doesn’t matter which party, but then again that ultimately depends on which party you belong to and if you’re trying to score points.

    • gobsmack says:

      07:28am | 24/09/12

      Ironic given that the Victorian government largely ignores the vast reservoirs of experience and knowledge in Victoria’s public service and instead relies on a handful of careerists in each of the Ministerial private offices to direct policy.

    • acotrel says:

      08:51am | 24/09/12

      You can’t trust public servants, they run the ABC !

    • Rose says:

      08:55am | 24/09/12

      This is true of most governments. There is bucketloads of evidence that the Intervention isn’t working, even more evidence that the minute some one is put on a work for the dole scheme that the likelihood of them gaining real employment is decreased, while if they were assisted into programs that offered the types of training that local employers require that they become quickly employable.
      Fact is that evidence and facts are quickly overlooked for populist and ideologically acceptable ‘solutions’.

    • Kika says:

      09:07am | 24/09/12

      And the ABC is the only station worth watching on free to air these days HANDS DOWN

    • acotrel says:

      09:14am | 24/09/12

      John Howard had the right idea.  Go through the public service asking ‘is he one of us’ !


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