Back in July, I was able to attend an event hosted by the Friends of the Library at the South Bank campus of Griffith University here in Brisbane. This event, titled “Open Data and the Public Sector“, featured three engaging and knowledgeable presenters in:
- Mr Mike Stapleton – Deputy Director-General for Infrastructure Management and Delivery, Department of Transport and Main Roads
- Ms Anne Tiernan, School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University
- Ms Linda O’Brien, Pro Vice Chancellor for Information Services, Griffith University (and Training and Education Advisory Group chair for the Open Data Institute of Queensland).
Ms Anne Tiernan
- Anne covered a lot of ground in her 15 minutes, touching on the bipartisan nature of public service reform, work she undertook in 2014 about improving public service efficiencies, and so on
- The key challenge she talked about was “how do we share data across the complex systems and relationships to deliver health, transport and energy outcomes?”
- Mentioned an open letter to the Palaszczuk government regarding open data – actually a really interesting read that talks about the opportunities of Queensland for leading Open Data.
- She maintained that she was sceptical of the typical Government approaches to transformative changes of this type – centrally-led and too slow to realise the value of the activity, leading to loss of momentum and changing priorities.
- She also talked about the potential for open data to be a disruptive force in a positive way, and referred to a recent speech by Catherine Livingstone on disruptive influences.
- (During the later Q&A session) She also levelled a challenge at Mike – TMR are doing such good work and providing leadership in this space, but are doing a terrible job of promoting this outside of Government circles. “If this was in Victoria, you would have patented your work and be selling shares in it already”
- Finished by praising QLD’s approach of involving academia and organisations like ODI-Q strongly in open data discussions – not happening in other States
Ms Linda O’Brien
- Linda focused more on the economic value of Open Data, particularly from an academic research perspective
- Suggested that improvements to QLD open data by public service was worth between $1.4 and $4.9billion annually to improved research efficiencies and opportunities
- Mentioned a statistic that the UK Government conducted an investigation and concluded there was $6billion net savings to open data improving government agencies sharing data better (looking for reference now)
- Also mentioned a register of 500+ new businesses in the US specifically built as a direct response to open data (looking for reference now)
- (During the Q&A) Was challenged a few times about what universities were doing to provide data literacy to graduates and to fill skills gaps in data specialisations. She mentioned that QLD has declining interest in ICT studies generally (that isn’t a trend outside of QLD), but noted the greatly increased demand for data science qualifications. Also suggested that experts were being poached by international firms, especially in the US, UK and New Zealand.
Mr Mike Stapleton
- Mike talked about his experiences with data, especially in road safety, the road network asset, public transport, and so on.
- Didn’t talk exclusively about open data, but was clear when open data was being used and made availableIn the Q&A – recurring themes were:
Questions and Answers
- “How do you demonstrate ROI for your open data practice?” – we could be doing this better, but it’s also not the point of open data in Queensland. “We’ve made conscious policy decisions to wear the cost for the economic benefit of the Queensland community as the driving factor”
- “Are all of the datasets you release useful?” – Mike suggested that not all datasets were being used as much as they’d expect or hope, but Government appreciates input and suggestions on what data they should be focused on (especially in data-rich environments such as TMR)
- The point was made that there was value in using these datasets to change the culture of the organisation and have meaningful conversations about data, even if they weren’t being adopted by the public to the extent that would be liked.
- “How could Government engage better with academia, industry and the public to understand demand?” The answer from Linda and Anne was “yes, we need to do this better, but there’s not an easy answer.”
Thanks to Griffith University, the Friends of the Library and the presenters for their time and putting on this event, was a lot of fun.