There are competing views about what the right data sharing model in Australia should look like. Despite this, there are certain common elements that will be present for any such model to be successful. We must have:

  1. an approach that reflects the Australian psyche…
  2. that engenders trust in the ecosystem…
  3. choice for consumers and value for all participants, and…
  4. a realistic approach to implementation.

Community engagement on the issue is therefore critical.

1. An Australian model for open data should reflect our cultural attitudes and values towards privacy, individual autonomy, trust and economic opportunity.

An individual’s relationship with their data is innately personal, and, collectively, a country’s cultural attitudes and values around the key sensitive issues should drive the type of data sharing model that is adopted. In Europe we see an approach that views the individual’s right to their data akin to a human right, whereas in the US their approach relies more heavily on the right to contract. More important than debates about governance, Australia should ensure that its data sharing models reflect our country’s values around privacy, individual autonomy and choice, trust and economic opportunity.

2. Community trust and confidence is at the centre of creating a system where we share our data, thereby allowing us to see the potential use and value of this data.

Community trust and confidence lies at the heart of a successful open data model – without this trust consumers will not be as willing to share and cross-pollinate data about them. This journey starts with engaging consumers on the importance of this issue, and educating them about who holds their data and how it is used (on its own and when combined with third party data), how they can use data more effectively for their own benefit, what organisations may do with their data (both the economic opportunities and privacy/security risks) and what rights they, as individuals, have in relation to data about them.

Simultaneously, organisations must also:

  1. be transparent around their data use policies (for example, by helping a consumer understand what they are really consenting to by accepting that organisation’s privacy policy);
  2. promote responsible data stewardship; and
  3. appropriately safeguard privacy and data security.

Where there are situations where individual consent is not enough, and community interests must be taken into account, laws and regulations will need to manage the risks associated with open data (for example, sensitive health data).

3. A model that focuses on providing greater value and choice for consumers through collaboration and technology will present net gains for all participants.

Greater trust will be garnered if we move away from a dialogue focussed on data ownership and arbitraging value gained from data, towards a collaborative approach among consumers, industry and government. The model should aim to co-create value for all parties, encourage and reward investment and reduce security risks.

The value of data does not lie in merely holding data, but rather timely sharing and blending of data to generate insights. If the primary goal is to drive choice and value for customers, an organisation will have less interest in storing large pools of data (which may have a short half-life), and more in being able to safely tap into a stream of data. In this model, a consumer can choose when to turn their “tap of data” on and off, how much to share, who they give it to, and to what end. Understanding open data in this light, with the view to improving consumer choice and value, facilitates greater transparency and trust in the system.

New technologies, such as blockchain, present a whole new proposition for data transparency. Blockchain provides a perfect audit trail of access to data. The technology is already being put to use in other parts of the world, for example in Estonia, where the e-Health Authority has secured all 1 million health records on a secure public/private blockchain. Each citizen carries a unique identity credential and they can link back to their healthcare record. The blockchain ensures a clear chain of custody for how records are being managed and who has accessed that information.

4. To get the best outcome, a realistic process must be agreed on.

Our overseas counterparts are quickly moving towards open data initiatives, with the EU imposing a 13 January 2018 deadline on banks to build in application programming interfaces (APIs) that facilitate read and write access to an individual’s transaction accounts.

The path forward in Australia needs to balance competing considerations including scope, timing, protective mechanisms, flexibility to deal with further developments, and appropriate incentives for all stakeholders. An industry led approach is likely to produce a better outcome.

In the meantime, the focus on timelines continues to intensify. Yesterday, the House Standing Committee on Economics released its report on the four major banks, and recommended that providers of deposit products must provide open access to customer and small business data by July 2018.

The Productivity Commission is currently investing ways to improve the availability and use of public and private sector data. The Commission released its Draft Report on Data Availability and Use earlier this month and is accepting feedback on the report until Monday 12 December 2016. Their final report is due March 2017.