Big data is making headlines yet again with the Productivity Commission announcing it will conduct a 12-month inquiry on how to improve the availability and use of public and private data in Australia.

The launch of the inquiry follows the 2014 Financial System Inquiry (the Murray Inquiry) and the 2015 Harper Review of Competition Policy, both of which made individual recommendations in relation to treatment of data, including that the Government should review the availability and use of data in Australia and look at improving individuals’ access to their own data to inform consumer choices.

In launching the inquiry, Productivity Commission Chairman Peter Harris referenced a significant evolution in data collection and analysis in recent times, noting that the way data is being collected and used — or not used — appears to be changing rapidly, although perhaps more rapidly overseas than in Australia. He noted the need for greater transparency if community confidence and innovation opportunities are to be maximised.

The inquiry kicked off on 19 April 2016, with the release of a detailed Issues Paper, examining not only increased sharing of data but also how to balance the potential benefits, such as increased efficiencies and improved consumer interactions, with conflicting considerations including privacy, security and intellectual property.

An extensive consultation period has now commenced, during which the Productivity Commission is encouraging detailed submissions, as well as brief comments via email, from all interested parties including academics, government agencies, private entities with large data holdings (including in finance and social media), organisations interested in data access and members of the community.

The timeline for the inquiry anticipates the release of a draft report by November 2016, followed by a final report in March 2017.

Submissions in response to the Issues Paper are due by Friday 29 July 2016.